two people standing on a stage with the word Superheroes "The Power of Choice" behind them
Harold K.L. Castle Foundation Strategic Advisor Alex Harris, left, was presented the GEAR UP Community Partner of the Year award by Ranjit Sidhu, president and CEO of the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships.

The Harold K.L. Castle Foundation was honored as GEAR UP Community Partner of the Year at the seventh annual GEAR UP Leadership Awards in Washington, D.C. Nominated by Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education, the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP) awarded the Castle Foundation for its outstanding support and commitment to numerous initiatives that prepare Hawaiʻi’s low-income students for college and career success.

“The Castle Foundation has been an invaluable partner in raising student achievement and moving Hawaiʻi closer to our 55 by ’25 education goal,” says Stephen Schatz, Hawaiʻi P–20 executive director. “Hawaiʻi P–20 is incredibly thankful for the collaboration with our GEAR UP Hawaiʻi program to improve access for thousands of students statewide. They are very deserving of this year’s NCCEP award.”

Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education is a statewide partnership led by the Executive Office on Early Learning, the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education and the University of Hawaiʻi.

middle school students participating in a science project
Middle school students from Jarrett, Washington, Central, Waipahu, Dole and Kalākaua participate in GENE-ius Day STEM Summer Program, funded by GEAR UP Hawaiʻi, at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

More than 14,000 students statewide in grades 7 through first year in college are provided information, support, resources and services through GEAR UP Hawaiʻi, a statewide college access grant under Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education. The grant is designed to reduce gaps among student populations who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

“At no time in our state’s history has it been more important for our youth to attain a postsecondary degree or credential,” says Alex Harris, Castle Foundation strategic advisor. “Doing so opens doors and increases opportunities. We are honored to partner with Hawaiʻi P–20 to extend the benefits of the federal GEAR UP grant to Hawaiʻi’s students. This award reflects the success of hard work by countless teachers, administrators and students.”

Preparing Hawaiʻi’s students for success

The Castle Foundation supports high school graduation and college access initiatives by investing in a diverse range of programs that successfully reach thousands of students across the state’s K–12 and postsecondary education pipeline. Over the years, its support of public education initiatives has been highly impactful.

The foundation’s investment in Hawaiʻi P–20’s Early College High School program helped mobilize the Early College movement, which enables students to earn both college and high school credit simultaneously. In addition, the Castle Foundation supported GEAR UP Hawaiʻi’s efforts to make college more affordable by supporting the “Cash for College Challenge” to activate low-income schools to encourage more students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Most recently, recognizing that access to strong counseling and advising in high school can be pivotal for low-income students’ success, the Castle Foundation is supporting an innovative College and Career Guidance program to create a pipeline of assistance for students from middle school through college.