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ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION PROGRAM GRADUATES FIRST-EVER CLASS

The Lihue Missionary Church was overflowing this spring – with people, with joy, with tears and with big goals and dreams for the future – in the first-ever graduation ceremony for the Hale Kipa Alternative Education Program on Kauai.

In May, just 1 month shy of the pilot program’s 1-year anniversary, two students celebrated with their GEDs, and seven students celebrated their completion of the Competency-Based Community School Diploma Program. Out of the nine total graduates, seven were awarded Wai‘ale‘ale Project Scholarships to enroll at Kauai Community College.

To date, the program has enrolled 40 students, 13 of whom have completed their coursework and earned their diploma, including four additional students (all four are Wai‘ale‘ale Project Scholarship recipients) since May’s graduation.

“Seventy-five percent of our graduating students had perfect attendance, with another 15 percent only missing a class or two,” said Melinda Montgomery, Hale Kipa program coordinator on Kauai, who helped found the pilot program. “To see these students flourish and graduate when they were otherwise struggling in the education system is to see an incredible positive transformation for our youth and young adults on Kauai.”

With no limit on who could attend the ceremony, the church was filled to capacity – one graduate had 60 family members participate. Hale Kipa plans to hold a second ceremony (at a larger location) in December 2015, when 25 additional students are expected to be eligible for graduation.

The Alternative Education Program recently merged with and expanded the scope of Hale Kipa’s School Success Program on Kauai, which initially served youth at risk of school suspension.

Enrollment is ongoing and open to youth and young adults ages 21 and younger interested in completing missed high school coursework (credit recovery); earning their GED; or earning a Hale Kipa Competency-Based Diploma. Formerly open only to participants in Hale Kipa programs, the Alternative Education Program no longer requires a formal referral or previous involvement with Hale Kipa.

Students can also now earn the High School Equivalency Certificate (HiSET), a newly launched alternative to the GED that allows the completion of coursework for a high school diploma.

In addition to classes held Wednesdays-Fridays from 9 a.m.-noon (class availability changes depending on need), Hale Kipa offers intensive support to enrolled students – including transportation, meals, tutoring, and connections to work and volunteer opportunities – to encourage the successful completion of coursework. The nonprofit organization Hawaii Literacy has also recently partnered with Hale Kipa to provide individualized literacy skills support.

“We are now in a new location that will centralize our classroom into one space, which allows us to design it to better meet the needs of our students,” Montgomery said. “We are thrilled at the overwhelming success of our pilot program, and look forward to building it further as an established effort in the years to come.”


Top Photo: At the May 2015 graduation ceremony for nine Hale Kipa Alternative Education Program students on Kauai, from left to right: Joe Maurer, Kyla Dill, Deb Carney, Caleb Abergas, Kanoa Cremer, Melinda Montgomery, Arvin Montgomery, and Raquel Brace.

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Graduate Kiliona Hunkin at the Hale Kipa Alternative Education Program graduation ceremony on Kauai in May 2015.

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