At statewide conference, students share objectives of new UH Hilo mentoring program

The student-designed Ka Pouhana Mentoring Program has university student mentors paired with faculty members to give individualized support to high school students through their first two years at UH Hilo.

Three women cleaning marine debris at the water's edge.
One focus of the new UH Hilo Ka Pouhana Mentoring Program is on culturally relevant programming that promotes communication and coordination, taking into account the context of Hawai‘i Island and the experiences of local youth. Above, students conduct a service-oriented activity collecting marine debris. (Courtesy photo)

By Susan Enright

Logo for KA POUHANAwith outline of Hawaii Island with taro at center.Students leading a new peer mentoring program called Ka Pouhana at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo attended the statewide Schools of the Future Conference on O‘ahu, Oct. 20-21, where they presented the program’s objectives. The student-led Ka Pouhana Mentoring Program has university student mentors paired with faculty members to give individualized support to high school students through their first two years at UH Hilo.

The conference, held at the Hawai‘i Convention Center, is produced annually in partnership with the Hawai‘i State Department of Education, the Hawai‘i Association of Independent Schools, the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, and the Hawai‘i Society for Technology in Education, to share information with Hawai‘i teachers and administrators about how schools statewide, both public and private, can better serve children.

Helen Tien pictured
Helen Tien

“Conference attendees included administrators and teachers from every island and almost every elementary, middle, and high school in the state,” says Helen Tien, an instructor of management and an academic and career advisor at UH Hilo’s business college who serves as an affiliate faculty at the UH Hilo Center for Place-Based Socioemotional Development where the Ka Pouhana mentoring program is based. “The students were able to share both survey results and their personal experience building mentorship relationships with first-year students.”

The aim of the new program, which is the inaugural service project of the center, is to provide comprehensive mentoring support to local students. Over the upcoming years, the goal of the program is “to be a comprehensive pipeline of mentoring support for Hawai’i Island students from the time they enter high school through their first two years at UH Hilo. The program… provides a strong foundation for our local students on their pathway and transition to college, and cultivates their leadership potential,” say the program’s organizers.

University students serving as peer mentors are Catherine Corella, Ayzlynne-Kalia Fishman-DeVera, Trevondrick Francis, Mahina Hanakeawe, Tu‘upuamalamakahonua Helekahi, Tiffani Napihaa, Kit Neikirk, Mekaila Pasco, Elena-Marie Waianuhe, and Tiffani Napihaa. Fishman-DeVera, Francis, and Helekahi serve as the Ka Pouhana Leadership Team.


Students present with a projected powerpoint to attendees
UH Hilo students present the objectives of the new Ka Pouhana Peer Mentoring Program on Oct. 21, 2022, at the Schools of the Future Conference on Oʻahu. (Courtesy photo)

Margary Martin pictured
Margary Martin

The Ka Pouhana program is led by Margary Martin, an associate professor at UH Hilo’s School of Education and executive director of the Center for Place-Based Socioemotional Development. Along with Tien, faculty mentors this semester are Instructor of Education Colby MacNaughton, Professor of Philosophy Celia Bardwell-Jones, Instructor of Biology Jenni Guillen, Associate Professor of Marine Science John Burns, Associate Professor Computer Science Michael Peterson, and Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Exercise Science Misty Pacheco.

The aim of the program is to tighten the bonds between mentors and first-year university students in order to increase communication, coordination, and understanding meant to boost recruitment and retention at the university level.

With the overarching theme of cultivating leadership, the student mentors are at the helm in design and implementation of all aspects of the Ka Pouhana program with a focus on culturally relevant programming that takes into account the context of Hawai‘i Island and the experiences of local youth, particularly those who are first in their families to attend college.

There are strong community and ‘ohana components, too, with mentors seeking input and guidance from families, community members, and community organizations, especially in developing ‘āina-based activities that deepen participants’ connections to Hawai‘i Island.

The Ka Pouhana Mentoring Program is funded by Oak Foundation Fund at the Hawai‘i Community Foundation.


By Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories.