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Peer Tutoring

Strength & Leadership

Jody Sonmak: Finding her voice through VOPIN

Bremerton High School Student Jody Sonmak

Jody Sonmak, a 15-year-old freshman at Bremerton High School, may have just moved to Washington from Guam and Hawaii, but she's already making a big impact. Jody credits Voices of Pacific Island Nations (VOPIN)'s Navigating Education Program with helping her adjust to her new environment, improve her academics, and connect with her Pacific Islander identity.

"VOPIN has been really life-changing for me," Jody shared. "Moving from Hawaii, where everyone's considered family, to the mainland where everyone does their own thing, was a big adjustment. VOPIN has helped me feel comfortable and connected."Jody found VOPIN through a flyer advertising a Polynesian dance workshop. As someone who had previously participated in Polynesian dance classes, Jody was drawn to the cultural aspect of VOPIN. "It was like a comfortable space with a lot of freedom," she described.But VOPIN is more than just a place to hang out. It has provided crucial academic support for Jody. 

"My math grades were suffering because of the move," she admitted. "VOPIN's tutoring and mentoring program helped me improve from a bad grade to a higher one."Jody also appreciates VOPIN's role in addressing the challenges faced by Pacific Islander students. "We're often stereotyped and misunderstood," she explained. "VOPIN helps us educate others about our cultures and fight against cultural appropriation."Jody is passionate about making a difference in her community. 

She encourages fellow Pacific Islander students to get involved and share their stories. "We need to bring awareness to our struggles and what's not being seen," she emphasized. "Even if it takes years, it's important to start somewhere."

Jody plans to continue supporting VOPIN even after she graduates high school. "I want to help other students feel as welcome and supported as I have," she said.

Jody Sonmak is a shining example of the positive impact VOPIN can have on Pacific Islander youth. Her story serves as an inspiration to others to embrace their heritage and make their voices heard.