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.

Pasta la vista, baby, staff style

The HonCC Staff Development Committee hosted a “Pasta La Vista, Baby” event in the cafeteria on Wednesday. Those who signed up in advance got to try nine different pasta dishes (and deserts) prepared by different groups on campus.

Honolulu Habitat for Humanity offers homes, help, hope

Reporter Maia Mayashiro talks with Kayla Rosenfeld of Honolulu Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit housing organization.

Larry L. Medina, writer
Maia Mayashiro, reporter
Fredrene Balanay, video

Kayla Rosenfeld of Honolulu Habitat for Humanity is on a mission. The nonprofit organization “is all about building homes who need the assistance… [to] build decent affordable housing for people here in our community.”

The organization works with homeowners build their own home with the help of staff and volunteers. Through this effort, the cost of a home is greatly reduced. Habitat for Humanity also has a Home Preservation program, designed to help existing homeowners improve the safety, value and appearance of their home. The program also helps the elderly get their homes ADA-compliant, allowing them to stay in their home and community, instead of moving out and into an assisted-living facility or care home.

Honolulu Habitat for Humanity also runs a donation warehouse/home improvement store (ReStore), like those run by Goodwill Industries and The Salvation Army. “If you’re a student and you need to furnish your apartment, come check this place out – you’ll find some really inexpensive things there,” said Rosenfeld. ReStore sells new and used furniture, appliances, building materials and home accessories to the public at a fraction of the retail price. Sales from ReStore directly fund Honolulu Habitat for Humanity’s mission of building affordable homes in communities on Oahu.

The organization offers volunteer opportunities to students interested in helping Habitat for Humanity fulfill its mission.

“As a nonprofit organization with a really, really tight budget, everything goes into the funding and construction of our homes. Volunteers make a huge difference in our organization, so I’m hoping that some of your students can take some time out of their busy schedules and come volunteer with us,” said Rosenfeld.

Volunteers can learn about retail (working out of the donation warehouse), working with people and learning organizing skills. Rosenfeld said volunteers would learn “what it takes to help an individual feel good about what they do and what they experience.”

Honolulu Habitat for Humanity contact info:
Phone (808) 538-7070 •
922 Austin Lane, #C-1 • Honolulu, HI 96817
Office Hours from 8am to 4 pm

ReStore Hours – Tues-Sat 9:30-4:30 (808)380-8617

New scholarship helps 90 at HonCC

Close to 1,000 students enrolled at the University of Hawaii’s community colleges — including more than 90 at Honolulu Community College –will receive help from new state-funded scholarship designed to eliminate cost as a barrier to higher education.

An estimated 996 students statewide are eligible to have their tuition and other direct attendance costs completely covered this fall, thanks to the Hawaii Promise program, which was established with $1.8 million from the Legislature, according to a report in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The individual awards range from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars a year at the community college campuses, where annual resident tuition is just under $3,800 for full-time students.

The program will act as a so-called “last-dollar scholarship” that kicks in after all other federal aid — such as Pell grants — and public and private scholarships are exhausted

“If we reach a point where there is still a certain amount of unmet need not yet covered by grants, that’s the Hawaii Promise program: It’s a last-dollar scholarship that closes that gap so we can truly say to that student, ‘It’s covered,’” John Morton, UH’s vice president for community colleges, said in an interview.

To determine eligibility, students have to demonstrate financial need as defined by the federal government through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, for direct attendance costs: tuition, mandatory fees, books and transportation. The direct cost to attend one of UH’s seven community colleges is roughly $5,000 a year for residents when fees, books, supplies and transportation expenses are added in.

To be eligible, students also need to qualify for resident tuition, be enrolled in a degree program and take at least six credits — typically two classes — per semester. Students receiving Hawaii Promise funds will need to maintain their federal financial aid standing, which requires a minimum 2.0 grade point average and evidence of progression toward a degree.

The colleges — on four islands — specialize in career and vocational training programs including culinary arts, automotive technology, dental hygiene, veterinary technology, criminal justice and construction technology.

The $1.8 million in startup funding for Hawaii Promise was calculated based on the financial needs of existing students. Of the 24,000 students slated to attend a UH community college this fall, 1 out of every 3 students is receiving some form of need-based financial aid.

Here are the details:


Hawaii Community College: 101
Honolulu Community College: 92
Kapiolani Community College: 188
Kauai Community College: 85
Leeward Community College: 271
UH Maui College: 169
Windward Community College: 90
Total: 996