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More than 2,700 recent public high school graduates prepared for college and careers this summer for free through the Next Steps to Your Future initiative, a partnership between the University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges and Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education.

The UH Community Colleges offered free online Next Step: Career Exploration classes to help students develop career plans and goals and decide whether to enroll in college, seek employment or both. Content-focused courses to help students get a head start on their majors upon completion of career exploration courses were also offered as part of the program.

students smiling

Almost 1,500 public high school graduates took career exploration or content-focused courses, earning more than 4,000 college credits. Hawaiʻi P–20’s free Summer Advising Initiative also helped more than 1,700 students make informed critical decisions towards achieving their post-high plans.

By participating in Next Steps to Your Future, students were eligible to apply for the Stronger Together Hawaiʻi Scholarship, which was created to help Hawaiʻi students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 500 Next Steps students applied for the scholarship funded by Hawaiʻi Community Foundation and First Hawaiian Bank Foundation, and 370 students were awarded Next Step Scholarships, with an average award of $6,200.

Renell Kaupu-Kaialiilii

Renell Kaupu-Kaialiilii
Renell Kaupu-Kaialiilii

Of the students taking the Career Exploration classes, 31 percent identified as Native Hawaiian. Kealakehe High School graduate Renell Kaupu-Kaialiilii said her Career Exploration class benefited her in many ways.

“It helped guide me to the best path for a career and also life in general,” Kaupu-Kaialiilii wrote. “It has taught me about finances and how our generation needs to think about the future and prepare for it better because if unprecedented times like this occur again, we need to have backup finances.”

She is enrolled at Hawaiʻi CC–Pālamanui and plans to become a child protective services worker. She will be the first in her family to earn a college degree when she graduates and credits the Stronger Together Hawaiʻi Scholarship with making that possible by covering about 65 percent of her tuition this year.

Jimwell Baja

Jimwell Baja
Jimwell Baja

Jimwell Baja, a Waipahu High School graduate, wrote, “I benefited from this Career Exploration class by learning crucial career oriented tips such as resume building, outreaching and networking exercise, and exploring specific career options rather than just a career category all helped me to solidify my future career and the goals I need to set to reach that career.”

Baja, who is now enrolled at UH Mānoa in the Shidler College of Business, said the class helped him to realize that he wanted to focus on becoming a financial planner.

“I think [Career Exploration classes] will make a massive difference, not only in your career, but also the way you view your future,” Baja said. “It definitely helped me look at the way our society works, especially during this pandemic.

“Ultimately I want to become a financial planner because of my previous experiences with my family not being so financially literate. And I wanted to make a difference in that by trying to help lower-income families with their finances.”

The Next Steps initiative was generously funded by UH partners at the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, the Hawaiʻi Resilience Fund of the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, Strada Education Network, The Clarence T. C. Ching Foundation, the Stupski Foundation and Gear Up Hawaiʻi.

—By Kelli Trifonovitch

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