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Lilinoe Kauahikaua continuing her practicum online.

Among the challenges students and universities face in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic are practicum (practical application) requirements for some courses.

A Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work graduate student is able to continue her practicum placement online with the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s transition to distance education. Lilinoe Kauahikaua is one of many students who has been able to stay on track to complete her practicum hours through the flexibility of her professors, department and nonprofit internship.

Kauahikaua has been interning at Blueprint for Change since August 2019. The Hawaiʻi-based nonprofit organization provides at-risk families with the tools they need to create a safe and nurturing environment for their children.

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Blueprint for Change at the press conference on the Keiki caucus package before Kauahikaua’s transition to distance education.

Before the transition to online learning, Kauahikaua would go into the Blueprint for Change office in Kakaʻako two days a week and show up to various meetings in the community, as well as legislative hearings for proposed bills during the 2020 legislative session.

Now that all UH courses have moved online, her duties have shifted primarily to research. Kauahikaua continues her internship through a research role along with audio or video check-ins on a weekly basis with her field instructor. Because it is a nonprofit, Blueprint for Change must continuously report on its existing grants, as well as apply for new grant opportunities.

“I am able to assist through researching best practices, methodologies, compiling existing data and analyzing new data,” said Kauahikaua. “There are many other developing projects as Blueprint is active in policy and program development for children of incarcerated parents through the state. My research is able to assist with informing the development of these projects.”

Kauahikaua credits the School of Social Work faculty and staff who have been very helpful in meeting via Zoom to discuss options, ideas and ways they can support students. She encourages other students to find ways to develop community and remain connected virtually so that they can stay on track with their education.

“We must be advocates of our own education and be flexible through an ever changing situation,” said Kauahikaua. “Create a group of students with similar issues and tackle them as a group. If you are able to, arm yourself with the knowledge of what requirements your field hours must meet. Then work in groups to create ways students can work together to meet requirements while fostering allyship among the student cohort, creating community and allowing students to check-in with one another.”

—By Sarah Hendrix

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