By Rei Ramos ‘15
Isaiah Pule ’18 is used to navigating oceans, but this semester is his first opportunity exploring the waters of collegiate life. Traveling almost 5,000 miles away from his home in Waianae, Hawaii, the freshman Film and Media Studies major brings with him a passion for movies and a penchant for overseas navigation.
Back home, Pule is a member of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, a group that researches and practices methods of traditional oceanic travel. The Polynesian navigation system makes use of traditional double hulled canoes comprised of wood, rope, and tarp. It has been used by Hawaiians for thousands of years to sail around the world without the use of modern technology. “They would use the stars, the suns, the waves, and the currents to help find their destination,” said Pule.
Growing up in an unstable environment, Pule found a home in the ocean through the Voyaging Society. “Through my youth, I never really had a father figure. My biological father is incarcerated. My mother, from the Marshall Islands, found difficulty attaining a job,” he said. Pule was even homeless for parts of his early childhood and was eventually placed into foster care. For Pule, voyaging served as an escape.
In his time with the organization, Pule has traveled between the islands of Hawaii and has even gone on voyages into deep ocean territory. He has met amazing people, among them being Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, through his boating voyages. Getting a chance to talk to both men after the program invited them to bless a canoe in preparation for a voyage, Pule noted that it was amazing to share in their positive energy and amazing life stories.
The Polynesian Voyaging Society provided Pule with many opportunities, one of them being the chance to meet Jonathan Burdick, the U of R’s Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid.
Pule’s journey to Rochester began the summer before his junior year when he met Dean Burdick at College Horizons, a pre-college readiness program for native students around the globe. The two found common ground in their mutual interests in astronomy and navigation. This encounter motivated Pule to participate in the U of R’s Multicultural Visitation Program, which gave him his first glimpse of his future campus.
After an interesting admissions interview on Halloween, where he was dressed as Superman, Pule was welcomed to the Class of 2018 as a recipient of the Renaissance and Global Scholarship, as well as the Alan and Jane Handler Scholarship, both of which are awarded to incoming students for outstanding academic merit and strong potential for leadership.
A first generation college student, Pule is glad to be given the opportunity to pursue higher education. Growing up with the struggles of homelessness, foster care, and delinquency, he is thankful for the support of teachers and family that helped to push him towards a more diligent and success-oriented mindset. He is likewise grateful for the scholarship opportunities that have made his collegiate experience financially feasible.
“The college route is a path that opens up so many doors and opportunities, and I’m excited to create a better future for myself,” he said. As both a Handler and Renaissance Scholar, he hopes to lead by example and inspire his peers and future students alike to continue on the path to being “ever better.”
Pule’s love for movies has led him to pursue a degree in Film and Media Studies. Many of his favorite films such as Gridiron Gang, Remember the Titans, and Freedom Writers resonate with the personal struggles of his past. He hopes to one day make movies that can portray the same themes of hope and success that inspired him growing up.
His favorite movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, is one of his largest inspirations. “It proved that the idea of starting from the bottom and making a life for yourself is more than just a dream,” said Pule. “I want to make a movie like this that can inspire someone to make a change. And just to have fun along the way.”
Pule looks forward to his time at Rochester as an opportunity for growth. “I want to be a leech and take in all that I can. I want to learn about different cultures and share my own, representing who I am and where I came from.”
With plans for a lengthy trek from Hawaii to Australia already in the works for next summer, Pule is excited to return home to Hawaii. It will be his longest and most challenging voyage yet. In the meantime, he’ll have to focus his energies on navigating the tunnel system in preparation for the coming winter.