In a room packed with Pacific Island law school hopefuls, Ian Tapu, the person who orchestrated the first-ever pre-law symposium says, he was surprised at the turn-out.

Tapu is a second year law student at the University of Hawai‘i’s Richardson School of Law. He says he wants to see more people who come from relatable roots enrolled in the program.

“I think in terms of non-Hawaiians we have five, less than five, and my class is about 80. For Hawaiians we have more than that,” said Tapu.

He believes this symposium can be the turning point, saying, “What I want is to have more students apply to law school, or think that the law is a career for them.”

Troy Andrade is an assistant law professor at UH Manoa, and the Director of the Ulu Lehua Scholar Program, he knows some of the biggest barriers can be about money.

“That hurdle is something we’re trying to get over, and trying to ensure scholarship support for students," said Andrade.

Next, is changing the way people look at law school. “There are a lot of Pacific Islanders that think they can’t do it,” Andrade said, “But part of the symposium is to ensure everyone -- you can do law school.”

Tapu says, in Hawaii, too many Pacific Islanders are on the wrong end of the legal system.
“Systematically, and historically, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians are over-represented in the criminal system,” Tapu said.

He wants to make sure more Pacific Islanders are on the right side.

“Fundamentally, we can’t ask others to do more for us than what we’re willing to do for ourselves.”