Adjusting to college life can be difficult. Fortunately for students at the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu, there is the Kealaikahiki Native Hawaiian Student Support Program.

“It’s open to all students but the focus of Kealaikahiki is to provide these services in a Hawaiian setting, in a Hawaiian environment,” said Keolamālie McComber, the Kealaikahiki program coordinator.

Kealaikahiki offers tutoring in math, science, Hawaiian language and Hawaiian studies.

“I used it for math, economics and then I send my papers in to the online program,” said UH West Oʻahu student Kasandra Puahala.

“Even if I had homework or projects to do, they’ll help me, if I needed materials like computers,” said Rollin Nahulu.

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Kealaikahiki also sponsors and assist in events like freshman camp.

“It’s just like a day for freshman to come and have fun,” said Kristen Maeno, a UH West Oʻahu freshman who participated in the camp.

A key part of the program is monitoring the progress of incoming students and offering them things like peer mentoring.

“Coming to a new school, you are the new kid on the block,” said Kealaikahiki administrator Heather Kapua Kalua. “So having this program kind of eases the transition for students, current and prospective, to build relationships, build rapport, not only with students but with faculty.”

The federally funded program was created by students, for students, to provide them with a service on campus, not only to get help, but to also be a part of a support network made up of their peers. Kealaikahiki also stresses community outreach.

“So not only do we have a presence on campus, but in the community, because with Hawaiians, we believe you always give back to where you come from,” said Kalua. “Don’t forget where you come from.”

“It is important to recognize our identity and place here in this sphere of education within the university and at this level and at this setting, to empower the native people, which in turn, empowers everybody else, including other minorities,” said McComber.

“I feel it gave me a renewed sense of identity with my Native Hawaiian people,” said Michael Lee, who utilized the program when he first enrolled at UH West Oʻahu and is now a Kealaikahiki student assistant.

“Well, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into, in my first year so they really helped me with everything,” said Nahulu.

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