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

GenCyber 2017 comes to HonCC

Chris Garcia, Writer

The GenCyber program is bringing its technology summer camp over to HonCC. This is a great chance for those interested in the world of computing. From cryptography to programming, GenCyber will walk through the basics. The camp will be held on the HonCC campus in Building 13 and at the Pacific Center for Advanced Technology Training (PCATT), Building 2, from June 5th through June 9th.

A key goal of the program is to “encourage and inspire” younger students to take up cybersecurity. Key goals of the GenCyber program is to inspire the next generation of cybersecurity professionals, teach students to practice safe on-line behavior, and introduce them to the different educational and career pathways available to them after high school. Thus, only students from Kindergarten to 12th grade are eligible for sign-up. There will be a separate camp for teachers in parallel with the student camps.

During the free four-day camp, members will learn the in-and-out of an internet layout; direct a robotic car with lines of code; become aware of cyber attack signals and stages; and make use of navigation technology. GenCyber will be collaborating with the HonCC Hulili Ke Kukui Hawaiian Center. Members will learn about the Native Hawaiian culture in a unique way in a special event during the camp.

Members will be interacting with technology hands-on, in a classroom and outdoor setting. The program will be offered in two camps: a beginner’s camp and an intermediate one. The beginner’s camp is geared for students who are new to the Information Technology (IT) field. Those who have attended the beginner’s camp in the past can take the intermediate camp.

Photos from 2016 GenCyber Oahu CTF Exercise Gallery ( and GenCyber 2016 Gallery (

HonCC 2017 Commencement (Set 1 of 3)

(Photos by Larry Medina)

Here is a look at HonCCʻs 2017 Commencement. Students walked proudly after overcoming mountains of homework, exams and stress. Families and friends also showed their support, cheering the graduates throughout the entire ceremony.

News Release: HonCC Wins at 2017 Pa’i Awards

On May 23rd, 2017, the Honolulu Community College Student Media Board (SMB) won three awards at 32nd Annual Pa’i Awards Luncheon, held at the Plaza Club in Honolulu and hosted by the Hawai’i Publishers Association. The following persons listed are students of HonCC during the 2016 school calendar year.

Student Design (Print) – first place with “Art & Soul” campus creative arts magazine published by Nekemiah Williams, Tiera Spencer, Vania Graves, Alyssa Baligad, Steffanie Sobitz.

Student Video – second place with “Art & Soul” by Tiera Spencer, Nekemiah Williams, Alyssa Baligad.

Student Story – second place with “Finally Ready to Take on the Whole World” news student biography for the campus newspaper Ka Lā, by Vania Graves.

Two other schools from the UH system were also present for awards, including UH-Manoa and Leeward CC. Award categories consisted of 31 categories, appropriately themed to reflect different aspects of public media. There were a total of 13 nominees awarded 2nd and/or 1st place.

We extend our deepest gratitude to the students who submitted their work for the campus newspaper and creative arts magazine, offering a plethora of creative perspectives. HonCC SMB thanks all the readers of the Ka Lā newspaper/website and Art & Soul magazine. Without their support and feedback, SMB would not be able to produce award-worthy publications. Mahalo for the continued patronage, and have an excellent summer.

By Chris Garcia, Ka Lā staff writer
32nd Pa’i Awards winners:
Information about Hawaii Publishers Association:

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Crafting Makana in the Hawaiian Center

Hawaiian Center members are cleaning salt to give as makana. Scoops are crushed with a card and separated from sand and dirt. The finished product will be wrapped in bags and given out. Although this was started since last summer, there is still much more to be cleaned. Photos: Chris Garcia.