Project Hoʻokuʻi IV: ʻOhana Lōkahi Kapaa HS participants

College of Education Center on Disability Studies (CDS) faculty members, Hye-Jin Park, Kiriko Takahashi, Lisa Uyehara, and Eric Folk, were funded more than $2M each by the Native Hawaiian Education Program (NHEP) for a three-year period.

Project HōkūlaniProject Hōkūlani participant, under the direction of Interim CDS Associate Director Park, is a culturally responsive, strength and work-based STEM enrichment and college transition project. Aiming to serve Native Hawaiian high school students with and without disabilities on O‘ahu, Hawai‘i, and Moloka‘i, the project’s goal is to create a seamless and supportive STEM education pipeline for underserved youth to bolster their aspirations to enter into postsecondary STEM fields.

“Through this project, we hope to better support the career development of these underrepresented youths and increase the likelihood of their becoming future ‘shining stars’ in STEM fields,” Park said. “To achieve this goal, we will develop and implement a research-based Hōkūlani model, which includes academic enrichment, mentoring, college transition, paid internships, and ‘ohana engagement.”

Interim CDS Director Takahashi is the project director of Ka Pilina No’eau II, which is a continuation of two previous grant projects, Ka Pilina: AIM Together and Ka Pilina Noʻeau. The current version, based on community request, gives additional attention to students with disabilities and students who may be disengaged or struggling in school.

Takahashi stated, “The new award is great news to our team and our project partners, ALU LIKE, IncKa Pilina No’eau II participants. and UHM Department of Mathematics. We are delighted to be able to continue refining the activities we have developed together to better meet the needs of our students, parents, and teachers. With this new iteration, we are also excited to strengthen our partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Hawai‘i. We hope to continue building upon our network to nurture STEM outcomes of Native Hawaiian students, assisting them to ultimately contribute to our STEM workforce in Hawai‘i.”

Project Hoʻokuʻi IV: ʻOhana Lōkahi, under the direction of CDS Assistant Specialist Uyehara, J.D., will engage families, students, and the Hawai‘i Department of Education (HIDOE) in cultivating a postsecondary education-bound culture within the Native Hawaiian community statewide. Based on nine years of research, supporting over 1,000 Native Hawaiian and at-risk student as well as students with disabilities, this new iteration of the project seeks to expand its support for students and the HIDOE by including a more active role for families.

CDS Assistant Specialist Eric Folk along with CDS Junior Specialist Sean Nagamatsu and Native Hawaiian Cultural and Educational Specialist Rebecca ʻIlima Kaʻanehe comprise the Kūlia Support Project team, currently working across the University of Hawai‘i Community College system to support and retain Native Hawaiian students who are at risk of school failure. This initiative will expand and adapt direct student support capacity to add an emphasis on STEM education. The project will also fund activities to increase student awareness and exploration of STEM careers and provide additional career mentoring and internship opportunities and drop-in coaching support.

“Our team is thrilled to have this opportunity to build on our existing NHEP capacity, including its many system-wide collaborations and partnerships,” Folk said. “We will work to innovate a sustainable, culture-based support approach and infrastructure that encourages students to expand their career horizons through coaching and mentoring to achieve successful career outcomes in STEM fields.”

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