Chuukese student graduates from Hilo High and HCC, looks to his future at Columbia University

By KELSEY WALLING Hawaii Tribune-Herald | Monday, May 24, 2021

imageKelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Hawaii Community College faculty cheer for Ed Ateria Poch-Yeichy during the drive-through commencement ceremony on May 14.

As the first Hilo High School student to graduate from high school and community college simultaneously, a young Chuukese student aspires to set a positive example for all Micronesian students.

On Friday afternoon, Ed Ateria Poch-Yeichy, 18, graduated from Hilo High School as one of the 22 valedictorians.
The high school commencement came a week after Poch-Yeichy’s graduation from Hawaii Community College, where he participated in the Early College Program and graduated with an associate’s degree in liberal arts.

This fall, Poch-Yeichy will be moving to New York City to attend Columbia University on a four-year, full-ride scholarship to pursue medicine.

Poch-Yeichy’s family hails from Chuuk, one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia. His parents were part of the first wave of Micronesians to move to the islands in the late 1980s.

Poch-Yeichy and his siblings were born in Hilo and have lived here their whole lives.

“My parents decided to come here for school and to make a better life for themselves,” Poch-Yeichy said. “In the beginning of their time here, everyone got along great together, and the culture wasn’t too different.”

As time went on, there was a change in the way his family was treated by the community on the island. Hate and discrimination began to intensify as more Micronesians moved to the state, he said.

“There were points in my life where my parents wanted to go back to the homeland where they are more accepted,” Poch-Yeichy said. “They are headstrong and stubborn, though, so despite the discrimination, they decided to continue building a life and future for us.”

Because he was born in Hilo, Poch-Yeichy’s experience has been a little different than his parents. While he rarely faced outright racism, he often would hear discriminatory statements from his peers.

“It was hard from an early age to be the odd person out, and sometimes I would get weird looks when I would say I’m from Micronesia,” Poch-Yeichy said. “Sometimes, people would say that I’m not like other Micronesians, but then I would wonder — what are we supposed to be like?”

Poch-Yeichy believes the negativity toward his culture comes from the news coverage of lawbreakers who happen to be Micronesian. Many people don’t see or hear about the hard workers who are paying taxes, raising families and trying to do good in the community.

“I think we are judged by the bad apples, but every culture has bad apples,” Poch-Yeichy said. “You can’t let one person’s actions speak for an entire community, because that isn’t fair to anyone.”

The negative stereotypes against his people in Hawaii has fueled Poch-Yeichy to work as hard as he has in school. Through achieving his goals, he wants to set an example for younger Micronesian students.

“It’s important for me to set an example, because there is no voice to advocate for us in our community,” Poch-Yeichy said. “I want to achieve something positive to show people we aren’t all the same.”

Using his immense passion for his people and other underrepresented communities, Poch-Yeichy is planning on going to medical school and becoming a surgeon. He eventually wants to take all he learns on the mainland and return to Hilo to serve the community.

After helping the people in his home state, Poch-Yeichy’s ultimate goal is to open his own medical facility in Chuuk, which only has one hospital on the main island of Weno.

“My advice to a young Chuukese scholar is to find something you are passionate about. You will want to work hard toward that passion,” Poch-Yeichy said. “Medicine isn’t my passion. Medicine is my tool or craft that will allow me to help my people and underrepresented communities, which is my passion.”


  • Pay attention, Reaper. If this Chuukese can do something positive in his life, maybe there is still hope for you!
  • This young man can be a blessing to his people. He is no doubt extremely bright, and has a purpose in life. While he hopes to become a surgeon, I hope he first studies internal and pediatric medicine, so that if necessary he can be both a primary care physician and a general surgeon. God knows Chuuk needs plenty of both.

    Columbia University is a great school, and I am certain he will make his parents, and all the people of Chuuk, extremely proud of his future accomplishments.

    God bless, Mr. Poch-Yeichy, and may your future be bright!
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