Okahara-Olsen taking a photo holding his diploma

Craig Okahara-Olsen receiving his degree at Hawaiʻi Community College’s commencement ceremony on May 11.

Sixteen public high school students from across the state earned college degrees from University of Hawaiʻi campuses in spring 2018, before their high school graduations, through the Early College program. One student already earned her degree from Leeward Community College in fall 2017.

Early College collaborations between UH and the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education, offer the opportunity for students to take college courses at their high schools and simultaneously earn credit toward both high school and college diplomas. UH also has an Early College collaboration with Kamehameha Schools. This past school year (2017–18), 270 Early College classes were being offered by UH at 40 public high schools and charter schools across the state, and more then 375 classes are planned for next school year.

“Taking early college classes is a great investment in the future,” said Craig Okahara-Olsen, who received his associate in arts degree from Hawaiʻi Community College through the Early College program a couple of weeks before his high school graduated from Waiākea High School. “It was a big journey for me and being here now, I hope I can go forward with this opportunity and inspire others across my community.”

Early College started at Waipahu High School in 2012 as a joint project with Leeward Community College, with funding from the McInerny Foundation. On Friday, May 11, 13 Early College graduates (12 from Waipahu High School and 1 from Waiʻanae High School) who had taken classes taught by faculty from Leeward CC or UH West Oʻahu walked the line at Leeward CC’s commencement ceremony.

“Participating in Early College is one of the best ways we have found to increase the probability of high school students going to college and then persisting from their first year to their second,” said UH President David Lassner. “It is particularly effective in improving college participation among low-income and under-represented groups.”

Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education Executive Director Stephen Schatz said, “As we continue to build Hawaiʻi’s future workforce and citizenry, Early College is helping us move us in the right direction to reach our goal of having 55 percent of working age adults in Hawaiʻi holding a college degree by 2025.”

Leeward Community College: 13 Early College graduates

The large number of Leeward Community College graduates is a credit to Waipahu High School’s Early College efforts in collaboration with Leeward CC and UH West Oʻahu. Twelve of the Early College graduates are from Waipahu High School and one is from Waiʻanae High School.

Leeward CC’s most well-known Early College graduate is Waipahu High School student Rovy Anne Dipaysa. On December 7, 2017, the 18-year-old immigrant from the Philippines earned her associate in arts degree from Leeward CC—five months ahead of her May high school graduation.

Hawaiʻi Community College: 1 Early College graduate

Okahara-Olsen earned his associate in arts degree from Hawaiʻi Community College a week before he is set to earn his high school diploma from Waiākea High School. Okahara-Olsen is the first Hawaiʻi Island student to earn his associate degree through Early College classes taken as a high school student. And he did so with distinction, earning a 4.0 grade-point average in his Hawaiʻi CC classes.

Hawaiʻi CC began delivering Early College classes at high schools in the 2013–2014 academic year, and the program has grow steadily since. Early College is currently offered at nine Hawaiʻi Island high schools. About 600 students take Hawaiʻi CC Early College classes each year.

UH Maui College: 1 Early College graduate

Hendricks holding her diploma

Macaleigh Hendricks receiving her degree at UH Maui College’s commencement ceremony on May 11, 2018. (Photo courtesy of UH Maui College)

Kīhei Charter High School senior Macaleigh Hendricks earned her associate’s degree in liberal arts from UH Maui College through the Early College program. She is the first to graduate from the program at UH Maui College.

Windward Community College: 2 Early College graduates

Two Early College graduates earned their associate’s degrees from Windward Community College. Aaron Garcia is a Castle High School student and Ashlyn Yasuda will graduate from Kailua High School.

Early College book scholarship incentive

The UH Community Colleges have also announced a scholarship opportunity for more than 1,800 Class of 2018 graduates from Hawaiʻi public high schools who participated in UH dual credit programs. The graduates are eligible for a $100 scholarship toward books and supplies when they enroll in a UH community college by June 30.

The scholarship seeks to increase the college going rate of high school graduates who have earned dual credits and to encourage the early registration of those who already plan to attend a UH community college.

To receive the scholarship, the 2018 high school graduates who already have UH credits must enroll at a UH Community College campus, and register for at least 6 credits for fall 2018 by June 30, 2018. Get more information on the scholarship.