Jennifer was the first woman in her family to attend college. She earned an associate’s degree in biology from a community college in Florida before boarding a flight to Hawai‘i, sight unseen. She studied marine biology at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, and even passed the infamous organic chemistry class her junior year. She loved studying Hawai‘i’s pristine environment, but relished living in it even more, finding beauty and wonder everywhere around her.
Soon after transferring to UH Mānoa on O‘ahu, she worked several jobs to help pay the rent. And soon after getting married and becoming a mother in 1998, she left school to prioritize parenthood. She and her husband Ryan would go on to raise three children, and Jennifer cherished her years as a full-time mom. It was always her intent to return to school to finish her degree, but life always managed to get in the way.
Jennifer was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer in 2012, and fought back hard and fast, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy providing almost five years of peace. Eventually, however, the cancer spread to her liver and bones, and she endured a variety of treatments before surrendering in 2021.
She was immensely proud of her family and her kids, seeing her eldest Katie graduate from UH Mānoa and her older son Zachary graduate from Mililani High School in 2020. She stressed to all of her children the importance of education, and the doors it opened to a better life. Youngest son Alex, who graduated from Mililani in 2022, is heeding her advice in enrolling at UH West O‘ahu.
Jennifer was a creative person, expressed in art, photography, and writing. She would say her favorite and most treasured creation was her family. And with the Jennifer Ozawa Memorial Scholarship Fund, she is able to create possibilities for others. Although she loved becoming a full-time mom and working at nonprofits and small local businesses, she never gave up her dream of returning to college. With this scholarship, she can help others like her fulfill this same dream.