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students at fishpond
Kapaʻa High School Project Hoʻokuʻi III students engaged in service learning at Alekoko fishpond restoration.

Faculty members at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Education Center on Disability Studies (CDS) were awarded $9.6 million by the Native Hawaiian Education Program (NHEP) for a three-year period to develop innovative education programs to assist Native Hawaiians.

More than $2 million each were awarded to interim CDS Associate Director Hye-Jin Park, interim CDS Director Kiriko Takahashi, CDS Assistant Specialist Lisa Uyehara and CDS Assistant Specialist Eric Folk.

Project Hōkūlani, under the direction of Park, is a culturally responsive, strength and work-based STEM enrichment and college transition project. Aiming to serve Native Hawaiian high school students with and without disabilities on Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi and Molokaʻi, the project’s goal is to create a seamless and supportive STEM education pipeline for underserved youth to bolster their aspirations to enter into postsecondary STEM fields.

“Through this project, we hope to better support the career development of these underrepresented youths and increase the likelihood of their becoming future ‘shining stars’ in STEM fields,” Park said. “To achieve this goal, we will develop and implement a research-based Hōkūlani model, which includes academic enrichment, mentoring, college transition, paid internships and ʻohana engagement.”

Takahashi is the project director of Ka Pilina Noʻeau II, which is a continuation of two previous grant projects, Ka Pilina: AIM Together and Ka Pilina Noʻeau. The current version, based on community request, gives additional attention to students with disabilities and students who may be disengaged or struggling in school.

Takahashi stated, “The new award is great news to our team and our project partners, ALU LIKE, Inc. and UH Mānoa’s Department of Mathematics. We are delighted to be able to continue refining the activities we have developed together to better meet the needs of our students, parents and teachers. With this new iteration, we are also excited to strengthen our partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Hawaiʻi. We hope to continue building upon our network to nurture STEM outcomes of Native Hawaiian students, assisting them to ultimately contribute to our STEM workforce in Hawaiʻi.”

Project Hoʻokuʻi IV: ʻOhana Lōkahi, under the direction of Uyehara, will engage families, students and the Hawaiʻi Department of Education (HIDOE) in cultivating a post-secondary education-bound culture within the Native Hawaiian community statewide. Based on nine years of research, supporting more than 1,000 Native Hawaiian and at-risk students, as well as students with disabilities, this new iteration of the project seeks to expand its support for students and the HIDOE by including a more active role for families.

Folk, along with CDS Junior Specialist Sean Nagamatsu and Native Hawaiian Cultural and Educational Specialist Rebecca ʻIlima Kaʻanehe, comprise the Kūlia Support Project team, currently working across the UH Community College system to support and retain Native Hawaiian students who are at risk of school failure. This initiative will expand and adapt direct student support capacity to add an emphasis on STEM education. The project will also fund activities to increase student awareness and exploration of STEM careers and provide additional career mentoring and internship opportunities and drop-in coaching support.

“Our team is thrilled to have this opportunity to build on our existing NHEP capacity, including its many system-wide collaborations and partnerships,” Folk said. “We will work to innovate a sustainable, culture-based support approach and infrastructure that encourages students to expand their career horizons through coaching and mentoring to achieve successful career outcomes in STEM fields.”

For more on the story, visit the College of Education website.

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