Early College students holding certificate
Early College student Joshua Berdon, back row right.

Pacific Islander high schoolers in an Early College (EC) program whose core curriculum was developed in partnership with the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu were honored in June at a graduation ceremony for completing their first EC course. EC allows high school students to take college-level classes for both high school and college credit (dual credit).

The event was part of a larger effort to introduce college opportunities to and boost the confidence of Pacific Islander students, from Micronesian, Samoan and Tongan backgrounds, who are underrepresented in higher education.

The McInerny Foundation Early College Program at Waipahu High School hosted the graduation ceremony to celebrate the accomplishments of the inaugural Early College Explorers (ECE) cohort of 13 Pacific Islander students. The ceremony featured student speakers, as well as cultural dancing and singing performed by students.

The students had completed Student Development 100. The course is designed to educate students on how to succeed at the university level, develop a better understanding of the learning process, and acquire academic skills and knowledge essential for success in college and in life.

“My questions were answered by counselors from UH West Oʻahu and Leeward Community College,” Joshua Berdon, an ECE student, said. “During the course, I learned things like the expectations going to college and also scholarships.”

Early College students on a stage

Following the students’ completion of Student Development 100, they will continue through the program in Summer Session II and take English 100E. This fall, the ECE students will enroll in Pacific Studies 108.

It is the program’s hope that by exposing Pacific Islander students to college opportunities, it will boost their confidence, increase their grit and determination, as well as prepare them for their post-high school educational goals.

“We hope that this first cohort of Early College Explorers will serve as trailblazers that will stimulate interest in higher education within their classmates, and expand the educational opportunities for future Pacific Islander students,” program officials said in a statement.

Read more at Ka Puna O Kaloʻi.

—By Zenaida Serrano Arvman