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

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.

Campus has renewed push for sustainability

Larry L. Medina

HonCC is moving forward with efforts to become environmentally aware and supporting positive environmental, economic, and socially sustainable values. Called Sustainability, the campus hopes to model these practices and incorporate them in the classroom and day-to-day college operations.

Cynthia Smith, HonCC Sustainability Coordinator, said that there is an increased emphasis by the UH system as a whole. Smith said HonCC “[needs to become] more sustainable in how we practice, but also integrating [sustainability values and practices] into education so we’re preparing students for a world in which they have to be aware of sustainability issues, threats to the climate, things like that.”

Sustainability first became UH system-wide priority when David Lassner, UH President, along with the UH Board of Regents (BOR) passed a policy in 2015 outlining goals and obligations of the 10-campus system to become sustainable. An Office of Sustainability was formed to rally and promote the policy initiative.

“There’s been a lot of people concerned about this for years,” said Smith. She said it started with the environmental movement in the 1970’s.

HonCC has had a Sustainability Committee for the past three years. With Smith as Sustainability Coordinator, one issue they are moving on is targeting classes to have an “S-Designation.”

An S-designated class means that it is certified as having a sustainability emphasis, with 10% of the class time talking about environmental issues. A class that is sustainability-focused means 60% of that class is devoted to the topic.

“It could be a science class, it could be an English class, Sociology can talk about it; but we even have our technical programs – AMT has a sustainability designation class – but what they’re writing about and researching is environmental topics, because what’s really important in those programs is to understand new and more sustainable practices. If they’re taking a class in Economics or Math, why not have the assignments they’re doing relate not to just abstract numbers, but say, numbers that relate to carbon emissions? [They will] learn about threats and solutions to the environment, and the implications.”

“Why have an S Designation? It’s to integrate a consciousness in no matter what students are taking. When they take a range of [sustainability] classes, they learn more about the environment as part of their general education experience.”

Smith and the committee are also hoping for certificate programs focused on sustainability issues.

“That’s really going to make students more employable in many professions. Students really need to lead with this knowledge [to give them] that advantage.”

Maui College already has a four-year degree Sustainability Management, while UH-West O’ahu has a four- year degree in local agriculture and sustainability.

Another focus on sustainability is how to generate less waste, reduce use, increase recycling. Currently, HonCC has no formal recycling program.

“We don’t recycle anymore because the City took the [recycling collection] bin away,” said Smith. She said the school has a waste contract that doesn’t include collection of recyclables.

“So we either have to pay huge amounts [for a private commercial enterprise to take the recyclables], or work it out in-house on how we are going to gather all the cans and bottles, where’s it’s going to be stored, who’s going to lug it. [Currently] you just take it home and put it in your blue bin at this point, and recycle on your own. But trying to collect it from the cafeteria and these public places where you might get a lot-?”

Smith said she is currently working with David Tanaka, Facilities Manager HonCC. “Derek and our facilities people are very very committed to this, very interested in facilitating, so certainly we want to try to get some recycling. Everyone wants to see a recycle bin.”

“I want to try to get the beginnings of a club and so more people join and get involved and see what those students want to do, whether it’s cleanup projects, whether its campus awareness, whether it’s helping with the recycling,” said Smith. She said there are monies and prizes available for student environmental projects and initiatives.

There are a few service-learning opportunities that students can get involved with right now, including Malama ‘Aina Days, the campus mala, and the campus greenhouse.

“Getting involved, getting your hands dirty in some cases, or working in offices that are promoting sustainability, these are all skills that might get students into professions, inspire them, and certainly make them feel like they are contributing.”

Hawaiian Center finds new home

by Fredrene Balanay
Ka La Staff Writer

Students who need a place to study, eat lunch, meet new people or make new friends can now go to the new Huilili Ke Kukui Hawaiian Center, which recently opened its doors last month in Building 5.

“You don’t have to be Hawaiian to come to the center,” said the Center’s coordinator, Kalei Lum-Ho. “Just come.” “Even though we are called the Hawaiian Center,” Lum-Ho adds, “it is important everyone knows that anyone can come and enjoy the facilities.”

Other resources available at the Hawaiian center include services specific to Native hawaiian students through programs like Hōʻala Hou and Pōʻina Nalu. There is also a Native Hawaiian counselor who can help research native Hawaiian scholarships and educational grants. There are also cultural and career educational workshops open to everyone, both Native Hawaiian and non native Hawaiian. These workshops include arts, crafts and even subjects like how to succeed in an interview.

Regardless of its location, over the last 15 years or so since the Hawaiian center was formed, it was always a kind of space to gather on campus. “Starting in Building 7, moving to Building 20 and now Building 5, the Center has always had a space to gather,” said Lum-Ho.

For some students, the new space is better than the last one. “Well, for one reason, the new place has walls.” Says Summer Kipu, a peer mentor and current student at HonCC. “In Building 20 the walls didn’t reach the top so there was a gap between the wall and the ceiling.” Kipu said. She and fellow peer mentor Jayleen Barino agree this made it difficult for privacy or just plain being able to talk without disturbing the class or office on the opposite side of the wall.

“I also like the open glass window design of the front and the single entrance at this new center. It’s less confusing than the three different entrances we had at the old center,” Barino said.

When asked what they would miss most about the old location in Building 20, Kipu said, “I’m gonna miss the playfulness and the good memories. Sometimes, someone would say something about another person, in fun of course, then you would see a small ball coming over the wall. Good times.”

For Barino it was more personal. “When I first found Building 20, I was not only starting my education, but soon learned I was pregnant,” Barino said. “It was there I carried her inside me, and there she has been since the day she was born. She is a year and a half now. And I have pictures of her from four months old in that Center. They became family, and in a way a second home.”

According to Lum-Ho, their new neighbors will be both the financial aid office and counseling center. “This will be more convenient for the students, and make it easier for those registering and needing academic help or financial aid,” Lum-Ho shared.

However, despite the convenience of this new location, the Hawaiian Center wasn’t a part of the original relocation efforts of this project, until about three years ago.

In 2014, the now former vice chancellor of HonCC, Katie Ho, wrote the grant that started the renovation of the old building. The funding was acquired through a Title 3 grant. “Part of the Title 3 stipulates funds are given to Native Hawaiian-serving institutes to help promote and preserve the culture.” explained Lum-Ho. “It was this that prompted the relocation of the Hawaiian Center.”

Student ACCESS provides equal access for all

Larry L. Medina

Jonz Stoneroad

For a student with a disability who might find college life difficult to approach, support from Student ACCESS makes the college transition easier.

Student ACCESS (Academic Accommodations, Confidentiality, Case-by-Case, Equity, Standards, Services) is run by Cassandra Y.I. Kam, Disability Specialist, and Beth Nishimura, Instructional and Student Support Specialist, up on the third floor of Kaukahoku (Building 7) and “is charged with ensuring that all the students have equal access to the same educational facilities and programs that any other student would have on the campus,” said Kam.

Kam feels that “education is the key, because a lot of people are afraid of what they don’t know. If they had an understanding of it (disabilities), then it’s not the stereotype that people believe it is. Knowledge dispels stigma.”

“There’s still that stigma that if your disabled, it means that you are blind or in a wheelchair, and (people) don’t know or understand that many disabilities are non-visible. ‘You don’t look like a disabled person’ is what’s said a lot,” said Jonz Stoneroad, HonCC student representative to the Committee on Disability Access (CODA). Student ACCESS is humbly working to turn the tide against that stigma.

Student ACCESS examines barriers in the academic environment and makes available appropriate aids and support services. These include on-campus parking authorization, equipment loans (digital recorders, audio amplification devices), sign language interpreters, class materials in alternative formats (i.e. braille, audio recordings, larger printed format), chairs and adjustable-height desks, notetakers, testing accommodations, scribes, accessible computer workstations, registration assistance/program advising/course selection/credit loads and academic counseling, and note-takers.

Students submit documentation to Student ACCESS of any physical, mental, or other learning disability from licensed medical or testing persons (i.e. physician) to be evaluated for eligibility for services. Students can self-refer to Student ACCESS. College staff and faculty may also suggest a referral to a student. Student identity is kept in confidence and not revealed to instructors, other college staff, or students.

Student ACCESS provides services to students throughout the regular academic year and during the summer session as well. As Student ACCESS prepares for the Fall 2017 semester, Kam said they would be working with the new incoming students who apply and qualify for services to determine what their individual needs are. Nishimura takes on additional responsibilities, where notetakers are needed in particular classes; if sign language interpreters need to be contracted; if creating captions for videos or transcripts are needed.

Nishimura said that “no one department demands more services from ACCESS than another. It all depends on the semester. It is individualized for each person.” The number of students vary by semester, from anywhere between 60 – 160.

College staff and faculty are regularly updated by Student ACCESS on what services the department provides, and provided specialized workshops, ex. working with different learners and introduction to disabilities. Student ACCESS provides such workshops to other student support departments including CARE, TRiO-SSS, and the various campus tutoring centers.

Student ACCESS works with CODA, made up of different departments and student representatives, who meet regularly to discuss disability access issues at the college, staff/faculty/student concerns, and how to resolve them.

One example is the current renovation of the Science Building (Building 5). “How people are going to have access to the classrooms (during ongoing construction)” said Kam. “[Students] need second floor access – elevators? During construction [there’s] dust, vibration, etc.” that could affect the learning of students.

Student ACCESS was originally located in the Science Building, and was asked if they wanted to return once the renovations are complete. “It’s better if we stay here [in Building 7, 3rd Floor] because most of the services and interactions we do here are on the same floor (as) testing and tutoring, CARE, TRiO-SSS, so it’s convenient for the students” to have centralized services on a single floor.

Mahalo for reading. Here’s a Letter from (not) the Editor – click on this link:

Letters from (not) the Editor