Lahainaluna graduate Jordan Petersen awarded full scholarship to medical school
HONOLULU — A Lahainaluna High School graduate recently experienced a “full-circle moment” when achieving an ambitious goal.
Jordan Petersen, 28, was happily surprised to be admitted to the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine for the incoming Class of 2021.
Even better, the 2010 Lahainaluna graduate will receive the Barry and Virginia Weinman Scholarship Award, completely covering the cost of his medical school.
“Honestly, I was just completely shocked. I had given everything I had just to apply to the school, and I had so much anxiety with waiting that I had resigned myself to just hope for a wait list spot at the very least. I figured at least then I would still have a chance. I was notified of my acceptance on March 12th, and I was just on Cloud 9. I was so excited and relieved to see all the hard work paying off,” he explained.
“Then it was on March 17th that I was notified about the scholarship. I actually did not apply to this specific scholarship — it was something they selected me for after seeing my application,” Petersen continued.
“I was just completely taken aback when I was told they were awarding it to me, and I am still quite shocked. I feel like it’s the type of amazing news that you always hear about happening to somebody who knows somebody — I would not have expected it to happen to myself. I feel so unbelievably fortunate to know that the admissions committee saw something extra in me. I looked into the scholarship more, and the JABSOM website mentions that it’s a scholarship for students who attended public school here in Hawaii, and I just instantly felt even more blessed to have been able to attend Lahainaluna.”
Petersen will enter his education with an open mind and give all specialties a chance. He may end up choosing pediatrics.
“I have a lot of experience working with children, and I see their limitless potential as all the more reason to invest all the time we can to ensuring their health and wellness. I do know that my goal is to specifically serve the people here in Hawaii and be an advocate for community health initiatives and even public policy,” he explained.
Petersen moved to Honokowai in June 2006, right before he started high school at Lahainaluna. His mother and stepfather, Athena and Jim Moberg, still live in West Maui.
He entered his experience at Lahainaluna eager to make friends.
“My first day on campus I knew nobody, but it was exciting the moment I started meeting people. I was just a small haole kid from the Mainland that wanted to make friends with everyone. A lot of those people I got to know on day one are still my close friends now,” Petersen said.
“I got to know and grow close with so many amazing people during my high school years there, and I would not trade that experience for absolutely anything.”
As a high-energy teenager, Petersen’s favorite classes were drama and aquaculture/horsemanship, because he could get up and move around.
“I especially liked working in the Ag Department because I could help care for animals. Nestor Ugale Jr. and Carol Rosetta were my teachers for those two classes, respectively. We still keep in touch to this day, and they constantly cheer me on and inspire me to reach my highest potential,” Petersen added.
Chemistry and medical biotechnology teacher Steven Cornell, Uncle Art Fillazar, Ashley Olson and Jeremy Delos Reyes were also positive influences for Petersen at Lahainaluna.
Fillazar and Olson have kept in touch with Petersen over the years.
He remembers Delos Reyes as a key friend when he was a new student at LHS.
“In my freshman year, I took Building and Construction with him, and he used to let me hang out in the shop area during snack and lunch breaks. For a good while in the very beginning of my time at LHS, he was my only friend in the whole school, and he would let me hang out and eat lunch with him. He really got me through the early days at LHS before I got to know more people,” Petersen noted.
Within a month of graduating from Lahainaluna in 2010, Petersen left for U.S. Marine Corps Bootcamp. He joined as a Cryptologic Linguist and Signals Intelligence/Ground Electronic Warfare Operator.
“It sounds like a mouthful, but essentially I had to learn Mandarin Chinese and play with radios and computers for five years,” he explained.
While in the Marine Corps, he met and married his wife, Christina; was stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay on Oahu; and was able to travel to several memorable places in the Pacific, including Japan and Malaysia.
He got out in 2015 so that his wife could attend Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine in Southern California.
Petersen used his GI Bill benefits and went back to college to earn his degree in Neuroscience from Pomona College in Claremont, California. During her time in school, Christina earned a U.S. Army Scholarship that paid for her schooling.
When they both graduated from their respective programs in 2019, they moved to Washington State for an internship year before she was selected to take over as the officer in charge of the Pearl Harbor/Hickam Veterinary Clinic and Military Working Dog Program on Oahu.
“Once we knew we were going to be there for at least a few years, I knew it was time to apply to medical school,” he said.
“I knew I wanted to attend JABSOM from the moment I found out it existed. I wasn’t always interested in medicine after all, since I joined the Marine Corps to avoid more school. I didn’t know I wanted to attend college until after my military service ended. It was during my freshman year that I saw that there was a medical school back home, and I thought about how amazing it would be to return to Hawaii and do medical school there,” he continued.
“I also saw that JABSOM was a school committed to serving the people of Hawaii, and I knew that was the community I wanted to serve if given the chance, so it was just an all too perfect fit from the very start.”
Petersen wanted to share news of his scholarship to inspire Maui students to set ambitious goals.
Hawaii is currently experiencing a physician shortage, and there is always a need for motivated individuals interested in medicine and serving communities here.
“The opportunities are growing as time goes on, and I would encourage anyone interested to take advantage and shoot for the stars,” Petersen stated.
“It’s never too early to start making those steps. I hope young students nowadays know that it’s never too early or too late to explore and find out what is right for you. Looking back, it’s crazy. In high school. I would never have guessed that I would be here today. I was voted class clown, I was not a model student and I even specifically wanted to avoid college after graduation,” he continued.
“I wish I would have taken more advantage of the pathway programs that LHS offered end explored different opportunities instead of just being in a rush to finish school. It took me quite a while to find my way, but I am still glad I found it regardless. I hope I can be just a shred of living proof that no matter what background you come from, you can still set crazy high goals for yourself, and there is truly nothing you can’t achieve if you really want it and work for it. Life can and will be crazy — and the real world can and will be scary — but no matter what, there is someone out there just like you achieving something great, so you’re never alone through it all.”