It was a proud moment for four Hawaiian immersion high school students who graduated with their associate in arts degrees on May 10, 2019, at Windward Community College and will also graduate from Ke Kula ʻo Samuel M. Kamakau charter school on May 25.

Kanoelani Holt, Waiʻaleʻale Sarsona, Hiʻilani Young and Kalehuakea Kelling are part of the Early College High School program at Windward CC. The four graduates each earned an associate’s degree in liberal arts. In addition, Sarsona, Young and Holt received their associate’s degree in Hawaiian studies, and certificates in ahupuaʻa (Hawaiian land and ocean systems) and moʻolelo (Hawaiian history and traditions).

Graduate Sarsona delivered a moving speech in the Hawaiian language at Windward’s commencement ceremony and reflected on her accomplishment.

“The Early College program at Windward Community College was such an amazing opportunity! I decided to enroll in this program for my lāhui, my people,” said Sarsona. “Throughout this journey, I was faced with many challenges and much skepticism. However, I pushed through because I knew that this path that I was taking of ʻimi naʻauao (seeking enlightenment) was not one that was unfamiliar to my ancestors. It was the mana of my kūpuna that pushed me through it and continues to do so today.”

Early College brings Windward CC professors into public high schools to teach college-level coursework, and enables participating students to earn credits to satisfy requirements at both. The goal is to provide successful college coursework experiences, allowing students to recognize their potential in higher education and develop the mindset and skills necessary for college success. Students in Early College programs across Windward Oʻahu have an average GPA of 3.4 and success rate of 94 percent.

Windward CC’s Early College program is made possible by funding allocated by high schools, Windward CC, the Hawaiʻi State Legislature, U.S. Department of Education, Harold K.L. Castle Foundation and Kamehameha School’s Community Investing Program.

Chancellor Ardis Eschenberg said, “Hoʻomaikaʻi ia ʻoukou e nā haumana ʻehā o Ke Kula ʻo Samuel Manaiakalani Kamakau—Congratulations to our four graduates from Kamakau. We are so proud of these first Early College graduates who will have a profound effect on their lāhui, peers and families for generations to come.”

For more information about Early College for Hawaiian medium institutions, contact Windward CC’s Mala Aʻoaʻo Early College Counselor Ulu Kahikina at eliseuk@hawaii.edu and (808) 462-4713, or Mala Aʻoaʻo Coordinator Kalae Akioka at wakioka@hawaii.edu. For general information about Early College, contact Early College High School Coordinator Kehau Iwashita at hki@hawaii.edu and (808)235-7465.

student in regalia and one person at podium

From left, Kanoelani Holt, Hiʻilani Young, Kalehuakea Kelling and Waiʻaleʻale Sarsona