Path to teaching career started with HCC

Ronald Santos graduated from Leilehua High School in Wahiawa 2009 and now, less than 10 years later, he’s a full-time teacher there. But, like many other students who start their career path at Honolulu CC, his journey was anything but a straight shot.
Santos was born in the Philippines and moved to Hawaii when he was 3 years old. After high school, he enrolled at HonCC with the intention of getting certified as an electrician, but found classes for that major difficult to get into.
So he switched course and started pursuing a liberal arts degree, getting more and more active in various extracurricular activities during his time at the school. He became part of the school’s student government, worked for the Student Life and Development office, and wrote stories for the Ka La newspaper.
“I still cherish the relationships I have built from being involved in those organizations because they gave me a sample of things that truly interested me,” Santos said.
Some of his best memories as a student were when he went on trips for the student organizations like the Ho’opili Hou leadership conference and the College Media Association’s annual journalism conference in Orlando, Fla.
“Since, I enjoyed traveling with the campus organizations, I wanted to pursue a career that allowed me to get a job anywhere, so I decided on teaching English,” Santos said.
After getting his associates degree from HonCC in 2012, that dream led him to UH-Hilo, where he got his bachelor’s degree in linguistics and a certification in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).
After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Santos came back to Oahu and applied to be an educational assistant at Leilehua High School and was quickly hired.
“When they learned about my background in ESL, I was asked if I was interested in teaching some ESL science classes,” he said.
“The most important thing I learned about my career is to try different things,” he said. “You never truly know what career is best for you unless you actually apply and see first-hand what the job is like.”
Santos is well on his way to get a state approved teaching license, yet he hopes to get a chance to teach summer programs abroad some day.
“Teaching is rewarding, but not without its challenges,” he said. Like many teachers, getting students to participate and engage in the classroom without getting out of hand hand are daily tasks for Santos.
He plans on staying at Leillehua High School and hopes to move up the ranks to be an administrator one day.
Gerimi Tangonan wrote this story while a student in Honolulu CC’s Journalimsm 205, News Writing class.

Never too late to go back to school

April Acquavella proved that it’s never too late to change careers.
After almost 20 years of working in the corporate world of marketing, Acquavella decided it was time for something new. It wasn’t that her career was unfulfilling or unstable; she worked in graphic design and had the opportunity to regularly express her creativity.
“A few years ago we were renovating the kitchen in our house while living in Virginia and though we hired workers to do the remodeling, I found the construction aspect really interesting,” Acquavella said. “At the time I was looking for another industry that was focused on the design side, and I decided I wanted to learn carpentry as a background for whatever industry I choose.”
That choice led her to Honolulu Community College.

Right out of high school, Acquavella attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing. When she decided to make a career change at the age of 40, rather than going back to Manoa, she chose to attend a trade school since she had already experienced the traditional academic route.

“Trade and vocational schools have a prepared curriculum focus that’s geared to make you job ready. What you learn is applicable to what you’d be doing outside school,” she said.

Acquavella completed the Carpentry Technology Program at Honolulu Community College, and was the student speaker at the spring commencement ceremonies in 2016.
After commencement, she started looking for a company she wanted to work for and found Bello’s Millwork in Wahiawa.
She cold called the owners and expressed her desire to work there and they eventually called her back. Though she had to start at the bottom, she made her way up to become a CNC operator. A CNC machine, which stands for Computer Numerical Control, is a machine that cuts automatically off of computer designs.
Acquavella enjoyed her two years at the Carpentry Technology Program. She considered her classmates her cohorts and even ‘ohana,’ the Hawaiian word for family. She was highly involved in her studies and even started a Carpentry Club for students and alumni.

There are only two teachers for the program but her favorite was George Boeman.

“George is a lifetime framing carpenter for the union. He taught us in a theoretical sense and went through higher level skills and math – things one would need further down in their career,” she said.

Acquavella attributes her current success to her background and the experience she acquired prior to going to Honolulu Community College. And this year, she returned to the school as an instructor, teaching a Communications Arts class.

Regardless of the field, people must network and get to know people, she said.
Acquavella kept an open mind and felt that there shouldn’t be an educational hierarchy and that one career isn’t better than another.

“Traditional academics aren’t better than vocational academics. Working for a trade isn’t for everyone either. As long as you’re contributing to society – that’s what matters,” she said.
Cole Williams is a student in the Journalism 205-News Writing class at Honolulu Community College

Dwayne Pesquira: From HonCC to Local Motion

Dwayne Pesquira, 25, graduated from Honolulu Community College in spring 2013 with a Communication Arts Degree and was quickly able to put his education to use, starting up his own freelance business and going to work for one of the biggest names in Hawai‘i—Local Motion.

After graduating from Kapolei High School in 2010, Pesquira enrolled to Honolulu Community College’s Communication Arts program because his graphics teacher in high school recommended the program.

While a student at Honolulu Community College, Pesquira won the bronze prize in the student division in the annual AAF District 13 Pele Awards competition for Hawai‘i design and advertising.

During his last semester of school, he started to take on freelance work and enjoyed being able to do real world work. Immediately after college, his journey began by joining the Clutch Design Group.

“My design work really picked up after college and three years after I graduated, I started to work for Local Motion,” he said.

Local Motion seemed to be a perfect fit for him, for in his spare time he enjoys being active by hiking, working out, surfing, and paddling, the lifestyle of customers Local Motion tries to reach.

“I love to surf. It’s my passion and my outlet, and really eases my mind especially when I have so much work to think about,” he said. “For my career field as a whole, surfing has been essential for me because it gives me time for creative thought, reflection, and inspiration.”

Local Motion has only three people working in the graphics department, and Pesquira mainly designs for Hawaiian Style, which is a brand under Local Motion targeted more towards Hawai‘i local-people. He creates graphics for a variety of merchandise including shirts, socks, lanyards, and stickers. He also helps manage social media and website design for Local Motion.

Pesquira continues to strive to become a better and well-rounded designer. He constantly finds new ways to solve problems and believes every new challenge is a new frontier.

Honolulu Community College helped him prepare for his professional journey by working with instructors who actually work in the design field and assign real world-like projects, Pesquira said, adding that his favorite instructor at Honolulu Community College was Scott Kawamura, who taught his first major design class. After Pesquira graduated, Kawamura offered him a job with his design firm before he moved on to work for Local Motion.

A lesson Pesquira learned in college that helped the success of his career was time management.

“In school I thought I could get away with things and waited to do an assignment last minute right before it was due, but after school, time management became so important,” he said.

His advice for current students is to look for inspiration everywhere, learn time management, and follow your passion even if taking a risk seems scary.

Tiffani Lau wrote this story while a student in Honolulu CC’s Journalism 205, News Writing class.