woman throwing shakas
Kīpuka staff celebrate the blessing

Leeward Community College’s focus on advancing the educational goals of all students, with a special commitment to Native Hawaiians, was once again affirmed as the Kīpuka, Native Hawaiian Center at Puʻuloa opened for fall 2020.

A blessing was held to mark the occasion and conclusion of several stages of construction and refurbishing over a two year period. Administration, staff and students were on hand to commemorate the official opening of the space. This milestone aligns with the Native Hawaiian Center at Puʻuloa’s mission to provide a trusted Kīpuka, where students learn and cultivate a sense of belonging rooted in aloha ʻāina.

ti leaf blessing
Kekaimalu Lee and Hailama Farden

“The cohorts of students with Lauhoe, our comprehensive first year experience centered on increasing Native Hawaiian success, and Kahua Hoʻomau Ola, an extensive support services and academic counseling program for at-risk non-college bound Native Hawaiian students, now have a permanent place to call their home away from home,” said Native Hawaiian Support Specialist Melissa Tupa. “At the same time, our Kīpuka encourages all students to reach for excellence as part of the Ke Ala ʻIke Scholars program designed to provide an incentive for those who are eligible to graduate to commit to both cultural growth and academic achievement while earning an AA degree or certificate.”

Facility improvements include a dance studio, quiet study area, lounge, a native species garden and faculty and staff offices. Kīpuka also features a wet lab which is being used by the recently launched Ke Ala ʻAnuʻu, a program specifically geared toward successfully transferring students from Leeward CC to University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu as they pursue STEM-related degree pathways.

“Here we integrate Western empiricism and experimentation with Hawaiian science anchored in the knowledge of human experience,” said Kumu Momi Kamahele, program coordinator for the Kīpuka.

“Our student services programs are important to Leeward Community College as they provide all who are enrolled here with continuous opportunities for support every step of the way of their educational journey,” Kamahele continued. “We are all ʻohana and it’s that feeling we hope each of our students experience when they come through these doors.”

Center services are open to Leeward CC students and available remotely by appointment through Zoom by calling (808) 455-0545 or emailing nhcp@hawaii.edu.

women with leis
Matāniu Schrader and Hōkūnani Hernandez