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THE COMPETENCY-BASED COMMUNITY SCHOOL DIPLOMA PROGRAM

Tailoring education to the needs of at-risk youth

At-risk youth, including those on probation, recovering from drug addictions, and/or facing difficult family circumstances, often struggle at school. With all that is going on in their personal lives, keeping on track towards earning a traditional high school diploma or even passing the recently overhauled GED, which has a new rigorous format, is simply out of reach for many of these teens. In Kaua‘i, Hale Kipa has begun to tackle the challenge of providing at-risk youth the necessary educational foundation for them to go to college, start a career and reach their full potential as adults by offering a new program called the Competency-Based Community School Diploma Program.

Recognizing not all youth, especially at-risk youth, thrive within standard educational frameworks, the new pilot program teaches participants the necessary life skills to excel and become competent, productive adults. Once approved by the Department of Education to enroll out of high school, referred youth can begin this alternative educational program. The program requires students to pass a five-module curriculum as well as accrue 100 hours of community or work experience to earn a competency-based community school diploma. The five areas of study include community resources, consumer economics, government and law, health and occupational knowledge. Connecting education to everyday activities, participants learn how to use community resources like the library, shop with a budget, vote, eat healthy, search and apply for a job, and much more. Furthermore, they become connected to their communities during the 100 hours of service. Many enjoy volunteering and working so much, they continue to serve beyond the required hours.

“The diploma is just the beginning,” enthusiastically states Melinda Montgomery, Hale Kipa program coordinator in Kaua‘i. Students who earn a competency-based community school diploma can apply to any community or state college in Hawai‘i. Thanks to the Wai‘ale‘ale Project scholarships, graduates of our program are also eligible to start Kaua‘i Community College at no cost to them.

Program participants, who never dreamed of going to college, now see higher education and careers in their futures. With a little extra support and compassion, they are excelling and on track to start 2015 as graduates of the competency-based school diploma program.

What has been the program’s recipe for success? According to Montgomery, it comes down to making learning fun and recognizing the basic needs of at-risk students, such as transportation assistance, food, and flexible class schedules. Teens with histories of missing school now not only attend class, but show a genuine interest in learning.

Currently, youth in this program are predominantly from our Ka’i Like program and referred to us by the Juvenile Justice System. At this time, due to limited resources, the program is only available for Hale Kipa. As Montgomery continues to receive daily calls of interest from the public and the waitlist grows, however, we hope to expand the program in the future.

For more info on Hale Kipa’s Competency-Based School Diploma Program in Kaua‘i, please contact program coordinator, Melinda Montgomery at mmontgomery@halekipa.org.

Students of Competency-Based Community School Diploma Program.

Students of Competency-Based Community School Diploma Program.

Joe Maurer, Instructor of Competency-Based Community School Diploma Program.

Joe Maurer, Instructor of Competency-Based Community School Diploma Program.


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