Silver Dollar Financial offers its $2,500 Disaster Relief Scholarship to incoming and current college students in need of financial support after a natural disaster. This year, the team happily awards its financial support to Lilah Shapiro, a biology student at Lewis and Clark College and survivor of the 2018 Kilauea lava flow.
Silver Dollar Financial’s scholarship selection committee found itself moved by Shapiro’s story of resilience in the face of the total destruction of her home. Her scholarship essay tells the story of her diligent integration of lessons learned from the 2018 Kilauea lava flow into her collegiate education and extracurricular efforts. The team applauds her determination and grace.
Kilauea’s eruption and subsequent collapse in 2018 devastated a significant portion of Hawai’i’s Big Island. The eruption lasted from March until July and saw over 700 homes burnt beyond the point of recognition. By the time the eruption came to an end in July 2018, NPS reported that Kilauea’s caldera, Halema’uma’u, had deepened from its original 280 feet to 1,600 feet deep.
Earthquakes would continue to wrack the Big Island for another month after the explosion stopped. Even then, Kilauea would not go dormant. Even in 2023, it is one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
It’s one thing to learn about Kilauea’s 2018 eruption by looking at facts and figures. When Silver Dollar Financial’s scholarship committee read about Lilah Shapiro’s first-hand experience with the eruption’s lava flows and eruption, the reality of the destruction became all too clear.
“I was startled awake by sirens at 1:31 a.m.,” Shapiro’s essay begins. “Police with megaphones shouted we had two hours to evacuate. A mile-wide river of lava was barreling towards my neighborhood…[n]o one had expected the lava to reach Kapoho.”
Shapiro’s descriptions of the destruction she and her family had witnessed for weeks beforehand – the burning forests, the acid rain, and the constantly-red evening sky – paint a picture of terror that culminates in her family’s frantic flight to safer ground.
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Hula and the Nature of Resilience
The 2018 Kilauea eruption left Shapiro and her family homeless, with her home and neighborhood “covered by 80 feet of lava,” as her essay reports. Not everything was lost to the fire, though. Before she and her family evacuated, Shapiro took her pa’u, the hula shirt she’d made herself and danced in for 12 years.
It was her hula mindset, Shapiro says, that helped her stay grounded as she and her family struggled with the stress of the evacuation and its aftermath. She specifically highlights her knowledge of several foundational Hawaiian values, including:
- Malama ‘aina, care for the land
- Ha’aha’a, humility
- Kuleana, responsibility
- Kokua, helping one another
In embracing these values and helping her family find a path forward, Shapiro tapped into her inner strength. She continued attending school, keeping her grades up while dancing hula, maintaining her artistic hobbies, and participating in school sports.
Tackling Loss Head-On
Shapiro’s experience with the 2018 Kilauea eruption affected more than her living situation. She reports taking her first-hand experience with Kilauea’s lava flows and translating her losses into educational opportunities. In 2019, Shapiro worked with Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park as a full-time Youth Ranger.
This position saw her regularly discuss Hawaiians’ complex relationship with volcanoes like Kilauea and the different ways outsiders can de-exoticize lava flows. Shapiro reports sharing the story of the 2018 Kilauea eruption with 60 people a day and, in doing so, transforming their understanding of the eruption’s impact on local communities.
Taking Inspiration from Diverse Sources
Throughout her essay, Shapiro also refers to the help she had recovering from her family’s losses. Shapiro specifically addresses her mother’s strength as a source of inspiration. She says that watching her mother’s pursuit of a college degree and dedication to their family’s recovery showed Shapiro the different ways she could move forward.
It’s Shapiro’s grandfather, however, who plays a starring role in Shapiro’s past and future. Shapiro told Silver Dollar Financial that it was her grandfather, a biologist, who first helped her explore the Big Island’s forest in search of lizards and other wildlife. She also says that the research he contributed to the field of biology continues to appear in her textbooks.
It’s her grandfather’s loving expertise and her mother’s determination, Shapiro says, that continue to push her to excel, even in the face of a loss as severe as the 2018 Kilauea eruption.
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Shapiro’s Goals for the Future
Today, Shapiro still contends with the grief of losing her home and community. She also, however, endures. Shapiro studies Biology with a minor in Environmental Studies as a student at Lewis and Clark College in Oregon. She works for a College Outdoors program as a Trip Leader while also putting in hours with Lewis and Clark College IT.
Shapiro reports that she intends to use her degree in biology to work alongside conservationists in different countries. Her long-term goals would see her serve as a marine biologist focusing on tropical conservation before she transitioned back into academia, where she would serve as a professional exploring new ways to address climate change.
2024 Applicants Can Begin Compiling Their Silver Dollar Financial Disaster Relief Scholarship Essays Today
Silver Dollar Financial once again congratulates Lilah Shapiro on her resilience and receipt of the team’s 2023/2024 Silver Dollar Financial Disaster Relief Scholarship. The team looks forward to seeing how Shapiro’s experience and ambitions transform the field of marine biology in the years to come.
Future applicants interested in sharing their experience with a natural disaster have the opportunity to apply for the Silver Dollar Financial Disaster Relief Scholarship before December 15, 2023. The team invites applicants from all fields to share the ways that a natural disaster impacted their future goals and how the applicants, in turn, overcame personal hardship.
Parties in need of financial support in the face of personal injury losses or related hardships can contact Silver Dollar Financial for more information on the financial aid options available to them.