KAILUA-KONA – “Through compassion and understanding comes unity and love, it is this by which I live.”
Those 15 words were written by Cassim Morris, a student at Hawaii Community College – Palamanui pursuing an associate’s degree in liberal arts. His essay in memory of a young woman murdered nearly three decades ago earned the young man a $1,000 scholarship on Wednesday from Golden Gloves – Education is Worth the Fight.
A poster for the scholarship “In Remembrance of the Beloved Dana Ireland” seeking a two-page essay on how the writer wished to impact the world caught his eye and sucked him in.
“The way that it was framed was in the memory of somebody and it touched me in a way that I felt that I should write something,” Morris said, who moved to Kona in 2016 after graduating from Boston Community Leadership Academy.
He never knew the story of Ireland’s murder in 1991, but nearly 28 years later he took the time to delve into the tragedy that forever changed Hawaii Island, taking away a sense of innocence in a tight-knit community where people thought something so horrific could never happen.
The brutal, fatal attack on the 23-year-old Ireland, who had recently graduated from George Mason University in Virginia and moved to the Big Island to live with her sister, sent shockwaves throughout the state.
She was run down by a vehicle while riding her sister’s bicycle on the entry road to Kapoho Vacationland subdivision, then taken to a secluded fishing trail on the Puna coastline, beaten, raped and left to die.
Three men eventually were convicted in connection with the case: Frank Pauline Jr. and brothers Albert Ian Schweitzer and Shawn Schweitzer. Pauline and Albert Schweitzer were sentenced to life in prison; Shawn Schweitzer, the younger brother, was sentenced to five years probation and one year in jail for manslaughter. Pauline died in prison in 2015.
“I felt that sense of community and unity was sort of shattered,” Morris said about the impact the murder had on the Big Island. “People just tend not to understand each other and not have compassion for each other, and in a sense, to me, I just felt that’s what’s lost in today’s world. People judge people so readily. We’re just in an age where information is thrown at you, whether its through social media or something else – but do we ever really know the person? To me that’s the first way of bridging the gap toward understanding, toward unity, toward compassion.”
After completing his two years at HCC – Palamanui, Morris said he either transfer to the University of Hawaii or to a school in Boston to further his education. He also hopes to teach English in Japan.
The scholarship sponsored by Golden Gloves – Education is Worth the Fight is the first of its kind awarded by the organization that works to mentor children to encourage them to take their education seriously and impact the world for the betterment of mankind, said Timothy Williams president and CEO.
Williams didn’t know her story either, but when he did, he said he went into “compassion mode.”
“When I heard what they did to her, it brought tears to my eyes,” Williams said. “Dana didn’t deserve that.”
It inspired him to shine a light back on her story, as well as to note her achievement of becoming educated, having graduated from college before her death.
“I just seen a beautiful soul, a soul that went through K-12th grade, went on to college, and didn’t come here until she finished her college, and was raped and murdered and I said, ‘What better way to than give out $1K scholarship in her name,’” Williams said.
Funding for the scholarship was raised via sales of T-shirts, as well as a contribution from Ivan Van Leer Attorney at Law. Williams said he has yet to speak with Ireland’s family, but hopes to get into contact with them soon.
“I want them to know every penny went to this scholarship,” he said.
To get involved in Golden Gloves or for more information on the organization, email firstname.lastname@example.org.