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Column by the Chancellor in Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce Newsletter: July 2014

Message from UH Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
July 2014
Chamber Connection Newsletter
Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce

New Summer Bridge Program prepares STEM students for freshman year  

HICCSome of the greatest challenges we face at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo are in retaining and graduating students hailing from our local high schools. These students often need a strong support system to help them meet the rigorous demands of higher education, especially first-generation college students. This is where “bridge” programs can help at the onset, transitioning students from high school to college. Students spend a few weeks living on campus before the school year starts, taking courses for college credit, learning about time management and workloads in higher education, and working with peer advisors, mentors, faculty, and staff as a support system before the official school year even begins. This preparation and support often can make a big difference in reaching graduation.

A partnership between UH Hilo, Kamehameha Schools, Keaʻau High School, UH Hilo, and the UH Foundation has brought about an exciting new summer program designed to prepare new local students interested in pursuing studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics—the STEM disciplines—and natural resources fields.

On June 22, the first cohort of 25 students, all recent graduates from Kea‘au High School in Puna who will start their freshman year UH Hilo or Hawai‘i Community College this fall, started in the Kupa ʻĀina 2014 Summer Bridge Program. Program participants are enrolled in college-level English and Math courses, earning college credit through a rigorous schedule of study for six weeks. The students have full access to advising, counseling, and tutoring.

In addition to classroom and study time, the students will participate in field trips — ‘āina-based learning activities — at various sites around the island where they will learn about the historical, cultural, and geographic significance of these places, as well as interact with cultural practitioners and informants. Self-development activities will also build additional skills needed for the students to succeed in their first year of college.

During the six weeks, the Summer Bridge group will reside on the UH Hilo campus at Hale Kanilehua Living Learning Center, a supportive living-learning environment for students transitioning into the university. The learning center’s aim is to inspire students to explore and excel, particularly in Hawaiian language and culture, the STEM disciplines, as well as integrate their academic, co-curricular and residential experiences.

Five of the students in this summer’s Kupa ʻĀina cohort intend to continue their studies at UH Hilo in Fall 2014, and twenty will enroll at Hawai‘i Community College, twelve of whom intend to transfer to UH Hilo in the future.

Many of the students come from a Natural Resources focus at Kea‘au High School, and a number of them intend to pursue a major and career in a STEM or STEM-related field.

Of the students who have declared a major, five of them are interested in the field of Health, including Nursing. Three students are interested in Computer Science, and one in Architecture and one in Education.

Fifteen of the students are male and ten female. The cohort is ethnically diverse and representative of our island’s youth, with several of Naive Hawaiian, Filipino, and Pacific Islander ancestry, including Samoan, Yapese and Chuukese.  Also represented are students with European, Chinese, Portuguese, Native American, Puerto Rican, Japanese, African and Mexican backgrounds.

The Kupa ʻĀina 2014 Summer Bridge Program is funded by Kamehameha Schools. The project director is my former executive assistant who is now serving as interim vice chancellor for student affairs, Gail Makuakāne-Lundin. Among her many roles at UH Hilo, Gail specializes in developing leadership programs and initiatives for Native Hawaiian student services on campus and within the UH System. Her outreach through both internal and external venues has resulted in an increase in Native Hawaiian students at UH Hilo and throughout the UH System, as well as improved student academic success and graduation rates. Please feel free to contact Gail for more information about Summer Bridge at 808-932-7445.


Don Straney