Project Hoʻokuʻi, housed in the UH Mānoa College of Education (COE), achieved a new milestone through its support of 15 students who earned their associate degrees concurrent with their high school diplomas. Building upon 14 years of research, Project Hoʻokuʻi aims to increase the enrollment of Native Hawaiian, at-risk, gifted and talented, and students with disabilities in post-secondary education or post-secondary certification programs leading to employment.
Through the Running Start, Jump Start, Early Admission, and Mānoa Academy programs, the project supports high school students to meet the academic qualifications of these college programs while still in high school. COE Center on Disabilty Studies Associate Specialist Lisa Uyehara serves as the director of Project Hoʻokuʻi. She attributes its success to the support of her hard-working team, her unit and college, project partner schools, UH System partners, and most of all the students.
“We can provide guidance, support, and as many opportunities as we can, but at the end of the day, it is the student who must take the step towards the opportunities and work very hard,” Uyehara said.
Kailee Umaga-Silva, a Farrington High School graduate, set a goal of completing an associate’s degree in liberal arts before graduating from high school, and she succeeded. Dependent on a wheelchair since an incident in preschool, she is also determined to walk again and drive on her own one day.
“I wasn’t entirely sure of my plans for the future, but being a part of Project Hoʻokuʻi helped me decide where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do after high school,” Umaga-Silva said. “This project also helped me to develop my relationship with my Hawaiian culture. I’ve become more open to learning about my culture’s history and its connections with the island.”
Project Hoʻokuʻi partners: Hawaiʻi Department of Education, 10 project schools statewide, UH System Community Colleges, Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, and Native Hawaiian Student Services.
Graduates: (Farrington High School) Rachelle Manuel, Cadyn Ramos, Norine Quach, Kailee Umaga-Silva, Kuileihoku McConnell, Jahren Pintor, Rachel Tamapolu, and Leilani Dela Cruz; (West Hawaiʻi Exploration Academy) Hunter Landt; (Lanaʻi High School) Talia Agliam, Carl Padron, and Souina Seuli; (Molokaʻi High School) Mahealani Bright Wilhelm, Kahaku Poepoe, and Kailani Bicoy; and (Lāna‘i High School) Talia Agliam.