Christine Park credits the graduate program in counseling psychology at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo for teaching her how to be a better helper and healer for the community. The UH Hilo alumna is the coordinator of the Individualized Career Achievement Network or iCAN transition program, a community-based initiative she established at the Waipahu Community School for Adults (WCSA).
The program has campuses on Oʻahu and Hawaiʻi Island, and helps students improve their lives by finding career pathways through college or workforce training. The transition program is based at WCSA which helps students earn their high school equivalency credentials and improve workplace skills.
Park earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Gonzaga University in 2004 before enrolling in UH Hilo’s counseling psychology graduate program. She was in the very first cohort of the program and graduated in 2007.
“I wasn’t sure if I was ready for graduate school and if I wanted to spend another two as a student,” she explained. “Ultimately, it was the best decision I ever made.” After working several state jobs as a teacher, counselor and behavior health specialist, she earned a doctorate in counselor education and supervision from Walden University in 2019.
Park’s main goals are to serve and help the community. UH Hilo provided her with a solid foundation, which helped her gain the essential knowledge and experience to be a mental health counselor.
Park started her work at WCSA in 2015. The school serves half of Oʻahu, as well as the island of Hawaiʻi, with campuses in Hilo and Kona.
“Adult education programs help to address systemic barriers and disparities associated with high school noncompletion,” Park said. “Adult education programs are an opportunity for a second chance.”
Park recalls assisting a woman in the iCAN program who was anxious about going back to school. After helping her with math and language arts, the student felt confident enough to enroll in college courses and stayed with the WCSA during the first semester. She eventually earned an associate’s degree and is currently pursuing her bachelor’s.
“It was a way for her to gradually build her confidence and have a safe place to come back to until she felt comfortable and confident,” Park said.
Her dedication is also acknowledged through a series of accolades. In 2017, Park was selected as a Doctoral Fellow for the National Board for Certified Counselors Minority Fellowship Program. She was selected as 2018 Emerging Leader for the Western Association for Counselor Education and Supervision and also honored as 2019 Emerging Leader for the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision.
For more go to UH Hilo Stories.
—Story by Lauren Okinaka, a UH Hilo student