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Na‘ihe makes history

LIHU‘E — A total of 35 high-school graduates from Kaua‘i’s three public schools and one public charter school graduate received 36 college certificates from Kaua‘i Community College on Friday.

Kinohi Na‘ihe, 17, is the first high-school graduate of Kanuikapono Public Charter School in Anahola to receive her high-school degree, along with her Hawaiian academic certificate and Hawaiian botany certificate from KCC.

“I feel like I can be a role model or inspiration to the younger generation,” Na‘ihe said. “I started taking college classes in my sophomore year. My junior year I didn’t take any college classes, but in my senior year I took more college classes. To sum it up, I’d have to say the only way to accomplish this was with hard work and dedication.”

Na‘ihe said it was quite a challenge, as most of her senior classes were via distance learning, and she had to physically go to KCC for some of her college classes.

“My family has been a great support to help me get through this year,” Na‘ihe said. “With my mom as a driving force to push me to always do my best, that’s really how I managed everything. There’s gonna be challenges along the way, but stay focussed, e kulia i ka nu‘u (strive for the summit). Follow your dreams and never give up.”

Tiffany Mahelona, mom of Kinohi Na‘ihe, said she feels beyond proud of her daughter’s many accomplishments. “She is the oldest of six siblings and a great role model for them to follow,” Mahelona said.

Mahelona said every child has to take his or her own journey or walk their own path to get where they need to be.

“Always encourage growth, and don’t ever underestimate your child,” Mahelona said. “If it’s something they are interested in, support them 100% of the way,” Mahelona said. “And always hold them accountable. If they set a goal for themselves, do everything you can as their parent to help them succeed and hit that goal.”

Mahelona encourages parents to be there for their child every step of the way.

“Even though sometimes as parents you want to throw in the towel,” Mahelona said. “Some take longer than others to achieve their goals. If Kinohi took college classes her junior year she would have graduated this year with an AA degree from KCC, But that was her rebellious year, which every child will go through in life. From there we learn and work harder to get where she strives to be.”

It takes a village to raise a child, as they say, and Kinohi Na‘ihe’s father Lawaia Na‘ihe and stepdad Louie Mahelona are both proud of their daughter.

Jessica Drent, a Kapa‘a High School, said taking early college classes has had a huge impact on her education.

“First of all, you can’t say ‘no’ to free college credits,” Drent said. “I know that this program will save me a lot of time and money in the long run. More importantly, though, it improved my study habits, and gave me a preview of what it means to be a college student.”

KCC also has 13 Kapa‘a High graduates who became Intuit Certified QuickBooks Users (an industry certification).

KCC Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Early College Coordinator Frankie Harriss said in the academic year of 2015, KCC began participation in a dual-credit, Early College program with all the three state Department of Education public high schools on Kaua‘i.

The college began with only eight EC courses that first year, and since then the total offerings across the three high-school campuses have become focused and intentional, and have grown to upwards of 50 classes per academic year.

Then in the fall of 2020, KCC expanded its EC program for the first time to Kanuikapono, a Hawaiian-focused charter school with students in kindergarten to 12th grade.

“Data shows this is an excellent program, permits both UH and DOH to share resources, and positively impacts the students it serves by advancing their education and better preparing them for tertiary education,” Harriss said.

Harriss said for the high-school graduating class of 2019, the percentage of students who graduated with college credits was 79% for Waimea, 50% for Kaua‘i High and 42% for Kapa‘a. The percentage of Native Hawaiian students taking dual credit increased from 2% at Kaua‘i High, 3% at Kapa‘a and 6% at Waimea in 2015 to 32% at Kapa‘a, 48% at Kaua‘i High and 81% at Waimea in 2019.

KCC’s EC program began with a University of Hawai‘i commitment to provide access to economically-disadvantaged students and Native Hawaiian students who were unlikely to pursue college studies. The program was intended to target students who might not yet be thinking about college and may not yet be top performers, according to Harriss.

“We are building confidence, and want students to consider college as a viable choice for themselves,” Harriss said. “Data shows these courses are narrowing gaps and positively benefiting participants.”

Harriss said that, as a result of this EC program, UH has seen that for economically-disadvantaged students and Native Hawaiian students who earned dual credits, more are likely to enroll in college in the fall term immediately following high school graduation (74% compared to 42%); more are likely to enroll at a four-year institutions, and higher persistence rates into the second year of college are seen (83% compared to 69%).

The gaps between economically-disadvantaged students and advantaged students for these rates is narrowing (economically advantaged students enroll in college in the first fall term at 83% and persist at 89%).

“We hope to see legislative support for this program continue so that we can continue to build clear pathways from the high-school academies to our college programs and ultimately careers for these students we share,” Harriss said. “Anyone interested in further supporting this program might consider donations through UH Foundation.”

The graduates received certificates of competence in accounting, hospitality and tourism, Hawaiian botany and academic subject certificates in Hawaiian studies and liberal arts.


Stephanie Shinno, education and business reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or
Source: The Garden Island

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