Getting that college scholarship is a big step towards fulfilling a dream for high school athletes.
Here in Hawaii, there’s an organization, the Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance (PIAA), that’s been critical in helping those dreams become reality.
But the woman who runs it, Doris Sullivan, says she just can’t afford to do it anymore.
So what does this mean for Hawaii’s up-and-coming student athletes and their parents?
By the time high school athletes sign their names and commit to the college of their choice, they’d have gone through stacks of applications for scholarships and a maze of combines and camps. The non-profit PIAA helps families navigate through all of that.
“I have them set up their profiles on their website, teach them how to market to colleges, how to write a letter to college, how to get their video out,” Sullivan said by phone. “We provide SAT workshops and we have the longest running combine in the Pacific.”
Since 2003, Sullivan estimates that she’s helped 2,100 students get more than $22 million in scholarships. She charges a one-time $400 fee, less for families who can’t afford it.
But Sullivan — called a guardian angel by some of the families she’s helped — says she can’t do it anymore. “I can’t make it work any longer. We just don’t have the support that we need to keep it going. Some years, I’ve put money into it and I’ve never been able to recoup it, and this year I actually ran on $10,000.”
She says it would take at least $75,000 a year to run the program that helps up to 150 students each year.
KHON2 spoke with Rich Miano of Hawaii Speed and Quickness, who helps train high school athletes and has worked with Sullivan for years. He says if PIAA stops its work, this will leave a big void for athletes and families who need the financial aid and scholarships the most.
“She goes to more schools and talks to coaches, parents, athletes, and is more involved in this community,” Miano said. “You could not have an upstart organization replace a Doris Sullivan or PIAA. I’m not sure that numerous organizations can do what she does by herself.”
Miano says it will be devastating for the lesser-known athletes who want to go to smaller schools because Sullivan has been critical in helping them the most.
“Whatever is spent on helping her run her organization, you couldn’t put a dollar figure on the amount of financial aid, the amount of scholarships, or the amount of just young people achieving their dreams that she provides for them. I think that’s priceless.”
Miano says he’s trying to work with the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame organization to help fund PIAA and is asking other groups to help out as well.