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By Mele Laumanu Petelo

HONOLULU, Hawaii (August 27, 1997 - PIDP/CPIS)---Six University of Hawaii students from Pacific Islands countries have been accepted for study at major universities on the U.S. mainland, through an exchange project coordinated by the East-West Center's Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP).

In Honolulu, PIDP Fellow Gerard Finin says the exchange project allows island students to gain a broader and deeper view of life in the United States, including American culture and institutions, than is possible by studying only in Hawaii. In return, he says, they provide mainland Americans with a much richer understanding of what the Pacific Islands are all about. The students, Finin adds, travel to the mainland not only as students but also as educators and ambassadors of good will.

Students participating in the current exchange program come from Fiji, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Samoa. They will study at universities in Florida, California, New York, Utah, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania for a period of six months to one year.

The students participating in the exchange originally were competitively selected through the South Pacific Islands Scholarship Program, which was established by PIDP in 1994. Funding for the multi-year project, granted by the United States Information Agency (USIA), now totals $1,400,000.

Since the scholarship program's inception, a total of 13 students have been accepted for baccalaureate study and three students for master’s degree programs.

On the average, one scholarship is awarded for every seventy-five applications received from ten participating Pacific nations.

The East-West Center supports an additional 15 Pacific Islander students not funded by the USIA grant.

Finin says young people from the Pacific Islands area now constitute the largest grouping of students studying under East-West Center auspices.

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