Early College is a dual credit program that allows students to earn college credit while attending high school. It started in summer 2014 at the request of parents and the community.
“Basically our goal is to increase public school graduates to go to college and finish,” said WCC administrative coordinator Kehau Iwashita. “So we are offering students all opportunities to get that to graduate. There’s statistics that show if students have some college credit by the time they graduate from high school, they are more likely to continue to college. And that’s a good thing.”
The Early College program fits the state of Hawai’i’s larger goal of having 55 percent of adults earn a college degree by 2025. The UH community college system as a whole has been focusing on offering dual credit programs to prepare students for college.
WCC faculty have been teaching classes at Ku Kula O Samuel M. Kamakau, a charter school that focuses on Hawaiian culture and language, for about year an half. Usually, one WCC instructor teaches alongside one Kamakau teacher. Kamakau students can take the courses for free.
This spring, HWST 107: Hawai‘i: Center of the Pacific was taught, which is an introduction to Hawai’i and Hawaiian culture that includes Hawaiian origins, settlement, language, land, history, society, religion and the arts. It was the first time an Early College class was taught in the Hawaiian language.
“Like I tell all my students, college is an exercise in finishing things,” said WCC Hawaiian studies and Early College instructor Makanani Salā. “So if you do your part, our part is to meet (you) 50 percent (of the way). We want to help students get to this point where they take an active role … And our job is to help you get there.”
Kehau Glassco’s son, Ka’io, is a freshman at Kamakau taking an Early College class.
“For him to have this opportunity to take college classes to earn college credit, I feel is amazing,” she said. “It will also help him get a head start when he actually graduates from high school and then goes into college. So I feel like it’s a good opportunity for our school, for our students … and we don’t have to pay anything. That’s the main thing, because later on he’ll have to get scholarships, and we don’t have to do that.”
Glassco herself is a graduate student at the University of Hawai‘i pursuing her doctorate in education. As part of her doctorate program, she did a consultancy project at Kamakau to see what helps its students graduate from college.
“A lot of the things we looked at that Kamakau does actually help students graduate from college,” she said. “Their college counselor that helps them with the FAFSA and with this Early College stuff. So that’s what makes me excited about it because they have more of a chance to graduate.”
by Itzel Contreras Mendez, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter