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KS is among the community partners supporting the Hawai‘i National Guard’s Hawai‘i Youth Challenge Academy which prepares at-risk youth for entry-level jobs with mid- to high-wage potential. Native Hawaiians comprise nearly 50 percent of the participants in the program. Above, HYCA cadets sharpen their welding skills.

KS, community partners build summer bridge program for at-risk youth

June 20, 2016

Contributed by Kyle Galdeira

The socioeconomic implications of high school dropout on students, their families and the community are considerable and costly, thus, Kamehameha Schools has entered into a unique partnership with hopes of helping keiki at risk.

Kamehameha Schools, Queen Lili‘uokalani Trust (QLT), Leeward Community College (LCC), Honolulu Community College (HCC), Oahu Worklinks and ALU LIKE have partnered with the Hawai‘i National Guard’s Hawai‘i Youth Challenge Academy (HYCA) to launch a summer bridge pilot program, which affords at-risk youth a direct path into higher education vocational training and, eventually, an avenue to employment. The program is one of more than 60 community collaborations KS has supported during the 2015 fiscal year.

The program was co-developed and designed by the partners to be a summer transition program for youth graduating with their C-base diplomas and GEDs from the HYCA, a military-structured, alternative education program located in Kalaeloa.

“A transition summer bridge program is desperately needed to aid the most vulnerable at-risk youth in developing life and employability skills, a healthy daily routine and a livable wage in order to lead productive and independent lives post high school,” says Brigadier General Bruce Oliveira, HYCA’s Summer Bridge administrator. Brig. Gen. Oliveira notes that the summer bridge was conceived to address the ongoing needs of these youth to navigate the difficult transition into the world of work after completing the 5 1/2-month academy. 

The HYCA partnership is an effort driven by Kamehameha Schools as part of its five-year strategic plan that spans from 2015-2020. The collaboration is a means to improve educational pathways for Hawai‘i’s learners through collective efforts with organizations that have similar goals. By working towards this and other key objectives, KS is aiming to align its organization and stewardship of resources (people, land and assets) with that of the larger community to support the improvement of Hawai‘i’s educational systems.

According to Stacy Clayton, executive strategy consultant for KS’ Strategy and Innovation Division, many of the cadets have successfully acquired their high school diplomas due to the strict routine and military-caliber discipline provided at the HYCA. However, after graduation, students lack alternative housing options, socioemotional support and post-secondary training, causing many to return to home-and-family environments that are not equipped to support their progress and continuous development.

The HYCA summer bridge aims to provide extended care through life skills development, workforce training and job placement to assist these youth, many of whom are still 18-and-younger at graduation. 

“QLT is honored to support the Hawaii Youth Challenge Academy, which continues to grow and evolve even after 22 years of service to Hawai‘iʻs youth,” says Summer Keli’ipio, manager of strategic initiatives for QLT.  “The partnership between the National Guard HYCA, QLT, KS, LCC, HCC, Oahu Worklinks and ALU LIKE demonstrates one example of what happens when we pool our intellectual, relational, financial and social capital to invest in this energetic and promising group of young people.”

The HYCA Summer Bridge began on June 5 and is slated to run through Aug. 31. The program is organized into two focus areas: short-term job training and life transition knowledge and skill building. During the day, students participate in post-secondary vocational programs at either LCC or HCC. Based on their interests, strengths and academic competencies, students self-select into the Construction Academy (HCC), Engineering Academy (HCC) or Medical Services Training Program (LCC). The various training programs range from six to 10 weeks and students exit prepared for entry-level jobs with mid- to high-wage potential.

During the evening and on weekends, programming focuses on developing the students’ critical life transition knowledge and skills. An experiential environment is provided where students are taught and encouraged to set goals, make decisions involving money, time management, basic household organization and emergency management. They learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills, shopping for and cooking meals, handling chores associated with caring for themselves and acquiring the necessary social skills that empower them for successful independent living. Students are mentored by residential living staff coordinators, counselors and instructors as they develop and progress through the life transition learning experiences.   

KS recognizes that Native Hawaiians are over-represented in programs for at-risk youth like HYCA where they comprise almost 50 percent of the total program participants. The summer bridge is intended to help whittle down that daunting statistic and enable young Hawaiians to start adulthood on a positive path.

Hawai‘i Youth Challenge Academy to curb daunting dropout figures

>> U.S. Department of Education data details a domino effect of negative consequences for students who drop out of high school; one out of four high school students does not graduate and those who drop out will be unemployed or underemployed at a rate of 15 percent in comparison to nine percent of high school graduates.

>> Dropouts have a higher dependency on welfare and can expect to earn $10,000 less per year compared to high school graduates.

>> Dropouts engage in criminal behavior at a higher rate and are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested and comprise up to 70 of the US prison population.

>> Conversely, 78 percent of HYCA graduates receive their high school equivalency diploma, 48 percent join the workforce, 19 percent continue their education and six percent join the military. Program participants donate over 9,000 hours of community service annually, which is valued at more than $175,000.

A transition summer bridge program is desperately needed to aid the most vulnerable at-risk youth in developing life and employability skills, a healthy daily routine and a livable wage in order to lead productive and independent lives post high school.
Brigadier General Bruce Oliveira, HYCA Administrator

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