Second Kupa ‘Āina Summer Bridge program prepares students for success

The Kupa ‘Āina Summer Bridge program, a collaboration between Kamehameha Schools, UH Hilo and the State Department of Education, prepares students for success in their first year of college.

By Jessica Waia‛u, post-high counselor, Kamehameha Schools, Hilo.

Group photo, each in kihei, palm trees and ocean in background.
Students from the Kupa ‘Āina program gather for a group shot before the hō‘ike ceremonies. Courtesy photos from Kamehameha Schools.

The Kupa ‘Āina Summer Bridge program prepares students for success in their first year of college. Twenty-two recent Keaʻau and Pāhoa high school graduates enrolled this summer for two college-level courses, and spent six weeks living on the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus.

This is the second year of this collaboration between the Kamehameha Schools Extension Educational Services Division, UH Hilo and the State Department of Education Ka‘u-Kea‘au-Pāhoa Complex Area.

This year, the manaʻo nui (idea) was:

I ha‘aheo no ka lawai‘a i ka lako i ka ‘upena.
The fisherman may well be proud when well supplied with nets.

Good tools help the worker succeed.

Woman in water holding a fish trap.
Students learned how to make traditional Hawaiian hīna‘i (fish traps) using rattan, as one of the projects during the program. Courtesy photo.

Students learned how to make traditional hīna‘i (fish traps) using rattan. From loose strips of material, beautiful handmade pieces began to take shape. After several sessions, fully-formed traps emerged and students were ready for the final step.

On a huakaʻi (field trip) to Leleiwi, students found pōhaku (stones) to serve as anchors and put their traps to the test. The hīna‘i would go on to serve as physical representations of the many tools, skills and strategies learned throughout the duration of the summer.

Gail tying kihei on student.
Gail Makuakāne-Lundin, UH Hilo interim vice chancellor for student affairs, helps students tie their kihei as part of hō‘ike ceremonies. 

Students showcased their learning at their culminating ‘aha panina (closing gathering) at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center. In student-led presentations, they spoke of their experiences to their families, faculty (KS/DOE/UH), and other community stakeholders. Students shared the following:

The most valuable thing about the Kupa ‘Āina Bridge Program is…

  • “…gaining a relationship with the land. We often take it for granted because we live here.”
  •  “…was the experience of the mock interview. Not just doing it but also the preparation it took also was very important.  It gave me the perception of the real thing and it gave me the confidence I need to do real job interviews.”
  • “…the connections and lessons it had surrounding Hawaiian culture, especially learning oli and the importance and sacredness of a place.”

As a result of the Kupa ‘Āina Summer Bridge Program:

  • “I am more serious about school now and I have learned things that I would have had a hard time to learn by myself.”
  • “I feel more independent and confident. I have more motivation to challenge myself.”
  • “I learned that the steersman is responsible for the rest of the team paddling in the canoe. We are like the steersman of our own life and our network and support group is the team on the canoe.”
  • “I am a more responsible person. I’ve learned that the decisions that you make for yourself have to be good for you to move forward in life.”
  • “I believe more in myself.”
  • “I am ready.”
Three female students in blue Kupa ‘Āina t-shirts.
Kupa ‘Āina students shared presentations on their experiences at the program’s ‘aha panina (closing gathering).

A final ceremony was held the following morning at Mokuola (Coconut Island). Students, families and staff assembled at 5:30 a.m. under the light of the full moon. The students’ kīhei were tied and stamped to symbolize their new status as college students.

As the student’s presented their final oli (chant), “Ua Ao Hawaiʻi,” the sun rose above the horizon and peeked through the clouds. This hoʻailona (sign) served as a reminder that these students are now well-supplied with nets, traps and other tools to catch all the fish that they desire.

-From Kamehameha Schools I Mua Newsroom. Reprinted with permission.

More photos, courtesy UH Hilo Student Affairs:

Group photo in the field. Mountain in background.
Kupa ‘Āina students and staff at Puʻuhuluhulu.
One student in the water collecting water sample and two students looking on.
Belle Zellner, Tabetha Zapata-Mitz and Shaylee Charles collecting water samples at Keʻei, Kona.
Group photo of students in casual business attire.
Kupa ʻĀina students dressed and ready for “mock interviews,” a component of Career Portfolio/Planning.
Group photo of students in the field.
Kupa ʻAina students and staff with Christian Giardina, Research Ecologist, Institute of Pacific Island Forestry, U.S. Forest Service visiting kīpuka on Saddle Road.