Samoan graduates with honours in face of adversity

Samoan student Justin Ioane did not let the death of his father stop him from finishing his academic studies with high honours at the Brigham Young University (B.Y.U.) Hawai’i.

Mr. Ioane, who is from Taufusi and Ili’ili in American Samoa, majored in accounting and marketing at the B.Y.U.

His father passed away in April 2020 and due to border closures, he was unable to attend his father’s funeral in Samoa and had to watch it virtually.

Mr. Ioane’s story is told in Ke Alaka’i, B.Y.U.-Hawai’i’s campus newsletter.

When preparing for college, Mr. Ioane said his father, the late Bishop Matavao Ioane, encouraged him to work hard in school to qualify for scholarships. 

“He knew my family couldn’t afford my education, but if we do our part, Heavenly Father will provide,” Justin told Ke Alaka’i.

His mother, Epi Ioane, influenced his decision to major in accounting. 

As an accountant herself, Epi told her son there would always be a demand for accountants in the job market.

Through a field study for one of his classes, Mr. Ioane found marketing worked well with accounting which led him to pursue a double major.

While studying at B.Y.U.-Hawaii, Justin met his wife, an April 2020 graduate from Mongolia. They attended the same ward and Justin was assigned to be her home teacher.

They married in 2017 and have two children.

Justin said being a father of two while studying and working was hard but it increased his capacity to study and work harder.

“It may sound illogical but after I had my first son, my grades got better. I became a better and [more] focused student after I became a dad. I know I will never be alone because I have two beautiful children and a supportive wife,” he said.

Justin’s wife, Serena Ioane, described her husband as a dedicated student and praised him for graduating with double majors with the highest academic recognition summa cum laude (with highest honour).

“I am very proud of him because I know his many nights of sleepless study paid off,” said Serena.

Justin, his wife and children are featured on the cover of the Ke Alaka’i December 2020 issue.

As a full-time student, Justin made time to serve as a worker at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Temple in La’ie.

He told Ke Alaka’i that the pairing of secular and gospel study helped him enrich his learning at B.Y.U.-H.

“I love that our school is under the Church Education System. I thought secular and religious knowledge were separate things but I learned all knowledge is part of eternal knowledge,” Justine said.

After graduation, Justin plans to return to Samoa to fulfill his IWORK promise and said he wants to become a successful businessman in the future.

“I want to learn more about problems on my home island and provide innovative solutions to add value to our local economy,” he said.

Justin advises students to value their time at B.Y.U.-H. and work hard.

“Do your research and choose a major and minors that will be in demand in the foreseeable future. Do your best to attain all the necessary skills to be an instrument in God’s kingdom in the future,” said Justin.

Ke Alaka’i means ‘The Leader’ in the Hawaiian language.

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