East Hawaii News

Keaau High Students in Innovative Summer Program

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Twenty-five high Keaau High School students are getting a taste of college and more this summer through the Kupa-`Aina program at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

The inaugural six-week residential program, which began this week and runs through Aug. 1, is a partnership of the university, state Department of Education and Kamehameha Schools’ Extension Educational Services Division.

Organizers described it as a “Hawaiian culture- and `aina-based summer bridge experience like no other in the state.”

Division Director Stacy Clayton said the summer bridge program is more than a college readiness program as it is also a “cultural transformation experience of the head, heart and hands of our haumana (students).”

Clayton said the bridge program is rooted in the knowledge and practices of kupuna or elders.


“It will be through their kahiko (ancient) wisdom we will cultivate our future generation of leaders,” she said.

Clayton said participants will leave the program with six college credits in English and math, acceptance into either UH-Hilo or Hawaii Community College, and a “deep and rich cultural connection to their moku (land) in East Hawai`i.”

Some of the learning will take place outside of the classroom at Kamehameha Schools’ learning sites around the Big Island.

Organizers said students will learn about the historical, cultural, and geographical significances of the sites, where they will also interact with cultural practitioners.


University officials said bridge programs have been shown to enhance college students’ success, including increasing their graduation rate.

“We are very excited about this new program and grateful to Kamehameha Schools for their partnership,” UH-Hilo Chancellor Don Straney said in a statement.

“Through innovative programs like this we will be able to improve retention and graduation rates, two- to four-year college transfer rates, and representation of Native Hawaiian and local students in agriculture and STEM fields.”

According to program organizers, among the high schools in the DOE’s Ka`u-Keaau-Pahoa Complex, Keaau has the lowest percentage of students, 41.78%, who go on to attend a UH system campus.


In comparison, 47.1% of Pahoa High students and 52.7% of Ka`u High students attend a UH school.

Keaau High School Principal Dean Cevallos said the program is a significant opportunity at his school where native Hawaiians make up 44% of the student body.

“The itinerary for the program and the culture they will be exposed to will be such a great learning experience for all of them,” he said.

Funding for the program comes from a $158,154 grant from the Kamehameha Schools Extension Education Services Division and a $5,000 grant from the Gloria Kosasa Gainsley Fund at the Hawai`i Community Foundation.

Organizers said the support will pay for participants’ room and board, transportation and supplies, as well as staff and teaching assistants to implement the program.

Students taking part in the first Kupa-`Āina program will be Anuhea Ahuna, Michael Alonzo, Austin Anderson, Roger Bryant, Amanda Chiquita, Ivan Costa, Ronald Dalere, Lorelei Marie Domingo, James Franklin, Harley Gapol, Leona Gicheg, Beverly Ann Gorospe, Tristan Haskell, Zachary Kakazu, Esa Kin, Christian Lawson, Blaize Mae-Adrian, Bronson Mae-Adrian, Lowell Matias, Jordan Pederson-Fukunaga, Deja Sherwood, Noah Stancil, Birolena Vaoga, Nyree Watai and Nathan Wong.

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