Eight Hawaii community college Automotive mechanic technology students took the fast track to graduating May 14 as members of an innovative pilot program, the first of its kind in the state of Hawaii. Just a year out of high school, these students graduated from Hawaii Community College – Palamanui in Kona with an Associate in Applied Science (SAA) degrees to Automotive mechanics technology (AMT).
They now have college degrees and work experience, and are ready for a job market where there is strong local demand for their skills.
“It was a really great experience,” said the graduate Titon Rivera. “I learned a lot of things and it introduced me to the automotive world.”
The graduates were part of Kealakehe High School (KHS) Automotive Mechanics Early College Pilot Program, which was launched in 2019 to meet the needs of local students and the Kona community.
The program helped Ken Takeishi achieve a long-standing goal.
“It happened very quickly,” Takeishi said. “I’m excited though because I finally have a college degree and I’ve always dreamed of having a college degree.”
The program is a partnership between Hawaii P–20 Partnerships in education, KHS, Hawaii CC and Kona Automotive Companies.
“This program is a creative solution that gives West Hawaii young people with valuable training in a skilled trade while meeting the needs of local businesses,” said Raynette “Kalei” Haleamau-KamDirector of Hawaii CC–Pālamanui. “It was truly a community effort. Mahalo to everyone involved.
Good start in high school
the AMT The Early College program gave these students a head start for their college degrees while they were in high school. They started getting credit for their college degrees in 2019 as juniors at KHS; they have completed about half of the diploma requirements by the time they graduate from high school in 2021; and this last academic year they completed their SAA degrees through a combination of on-the-job learning at Kona auto shops and coursework at Hawaii CC–Pālamanui.
Early College classes, which allow high school students to take courses that satisfy both the requirements for a high school diploma and a college diploma, have become widespread in recent years. What makes that AMT The Early College program is unique in that it is a professional and technical training (ETC) is cohort-focused and prepares students for specific careers for which there is a demonstrated need in the community.
Hawaii CC Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas say it AMT program is part of a growing trend in Hawaii CC to offer more Early College ETC programs to support Hawaii The college and career plans of high school students on the island.
“During the initial implementation of Early College, we noticed that we weren’t reaching as many non-college high school students as we wanted,” Solemsaas said. “By providing high schools with college-level vocational and technical programs like Automotive Mechanic Technology, we can reach a different population of students, who can see that a college path is attainable for them, and give a boost to their academic and professional development. ”
In addition to AMT students, 18 students from Kaʻū The secondary school receives certificates in agriculture from Hawaii CC This year. Hawaii CCThe early childhood education program has also partnered with local high schools on the Early Learning Career Pathways Projectand there are discussions about adding more Early College pathways into carpentry and culinary arts.
The ultimate goal, said Solemsaas, is to increase the rate at which Hawaii Island high school graduates attend university and improve their career mobility by allowing them to earn diplomas and certificates.
The key to success
Chris Ibarraa KHS and Hawaii CC Automotive Mechanics Instructor, said Kona companies were essential partners and gave students valuable experience.
“The businesses and relationships we’ve established in the community have been a huge help as students have had the full experience of a store with the hands-on learning and added pressure that comes with it,” said Ibarra.
Funding for the partnership is supported by Hawaii Community Foundation, GEAR UP Hawaiithe Stupski Foundation, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Hawaii 3R and the Ēlama project.
After Chase Fernandez received his Hawaii CC diploma, the graduate gave a great mahalo to everyone involved.
“Thank you all for your support and for trying to get us through this program,” Fernandez said. “I know it wasn’t easy. Many aloha to everyone who has helped us get to this point.
-By Thatcher JP Douves