search logo

A closer look at Kamehameha Schools Hawai‘iʻs Kaunaloa Dual Credit program. Kaunaloa features a diverse set of learning opportunities designed to allow students to build momentum for college completion.

KS Hawai'i dual credit program reflects student success

May 23, 2017

Contributed by Shaundor Chillingworth

One of the expected outcomes of Kamehameha Schools’ Strategic Plan 2020 is increasing the number of Native Hawaiian students who complete a postsecondary program on-time (within six years of graduation). One of the strategies to support growth in this area is building momentum for students by having them graduate with college credits.

Over the past two years, dual-credit has been a major focus at all three KS campuses. But  Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi campusʻ approach to dual credit has been a little different than at Maui or Kapālama. The Kaunaloa Dual Credit program blends in-class and online dual credit opportunities where students receive support and can choose courses that best fit their learning style and level of comfort.

Kaunaloa can trace its genesis to a very special date for the Kamehameha ʻohana. It was on December 19, 2013 when high school poʻo kumu Dr. Lehua Veincent attended a meeting with two members of the College of Education at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo to talk and learn more about the possibilities of dual credit.

At the time, the logistics of a dual credit program with UH Hilo still needed to be developed further, but it planted the seed and allowed Veincent to see a future opportunity for students at KS Hawai‘i.

“When we talk about personalized learning, these are the things we want to encourage our students to be apart of,” shared Veincent.

Kaunaloa is a word Veincent has used throughout his career in education. Its meaning is to persevere, which ho‘omau is more commonly used. But kaunaloa is used to represent the sticking with it to the end and describe the long process of learning. 

That idea and the potential of dual credit led to a further discussion with one of the senior teachers, Mario Patino, and a partnership with Bretton DeLauria and Saint Louis University was formed to support the first dual enrollment classes at KS Hawai‘i.

The SLU partnership creates an opportunity where current KS Hawai‘i kumu teach the college level courses offered, giving students an extra level of comfort by taking on something new with a teacher with whom theyʻve already built pilina.

Patino, who teaches Biology, was the first teacher to offer a dual-credit course at KSH.

Patino hopes that normalizing a college-going mindset is the future, and dual-enrollment courses shift from an elective to an expectation.

“Ideally I would want every student to take these courses,” said Patino.

Having visited other schools around the nation, he sees the value in shifting dual-credit courses from being an elective to an expectation and a normal practice.

“If you give students the choice, most of them are going to choose the easiest way out. Thatʻs just human nature. But instead, you can create an environment where the rigor is there and the support structures are there and thatʻs just the norm. Iʻm hoping in the future that we have so many college courses that thatʻs just the norm, there is no option.”

Since launching the SLU partnership, KSH has been able to add on partnerships with Hawai‘i Community College, which together with the Hui Ho‘opili ‘Aina partnership, provides new, more and different opportunities that are available for students.

“You always want to support our local universities cause many of our students stay here at our local universities,” said Veincent about the UH partnership. “It opened a wider portal for us to take a look at partnerships with our own university system as well as our community colleges. And I think when we take a look at our academy system and some of the opportunities our students may be afforded with different classes that they offer, thatʻs a perfect fit for us.”

Through Fall 2016, 245 students have earned 779 credits through both SLU and UH system opportunities.

One student who has chosen to take full advantage and the challenge of the rigor is senior Cienna-Lei Daog.

Daog has been attending KSH since her freshman year and balances her academics with also participating on the girlʻs volleyball team. The Puna girl hopes to one day be a vet and open her own practice here at home.

She was self-motivated to get credits and understood that sheʻd be able to get a head start and graduate college sooner. She began taking the classes second semester of junior year.

She took both English and Math 100 courses offered as part of Hālau Kupukupu in the summer. Sheʻs also taken Psychology and Sociology classes through the UHH partnership.

She credits the teachers and their help and understanding of the workload she now has for helping her succeed along this path.

“Every teacher that Iʻve had with the dual credit program has been really helpful. They know that the workload is a lot and theyʻre always there to help you no matter what,” says Daog.

“The first thing my mom asked me was if I could manage high school, volleyball and my college class, but I told her that I could and she did have confidence in me throughout all the classes that Iʻve taken,” said Daog.

While the motivation to pursue these classes was hers, she received support from home.  

“Theyʻre all proud that Iʻm getting ahead,” shared Daog.

“If itʻs there and itʻs free, take it. Use it to your advantage and get those credits.”

But Daog recognizes that the credits arenʻt the only benefit.

“[The classes] honestly just help to prepare me with time management and with the workload, Iʻm now prepared to take on a lot of work,” shared Daog, who explained how developing her  time management skills has better prepared her for the road ahead.

To meet those challenges, she sets reminders on her phone on when work needs to get done. She also credits the program for helping her expand her horizons and become more social. With the format of the course, she had to interact with peers.

“Itʻs fun learning new things and being called a college student while youʻre still in high school,” said Daog. Participating in the program also just helped her get more familiar with a college campus.

“In my English class we actually got to go to campus and do some research there and get familiar with the UH Library and their system,” said Daog.

Sheʻs also quick to acknowledge that taking a dual-enrollment course isnʻt for everyone if youʻre not willing to commit yourself to the experience. You have to want to do this yourself, otherwise you wonʻt perform your best.

Veincent credits the work of Dr. Clint Anderson, KS Hawai‘i Dean of Studies in taking the program to a higher level in trying to match student interests through the academy system with the opportunities available through Kaunaloa.

One example includes open up an opportunities for students who may want to become teachers themselves.

English teacher Laura Tavares teaches the Lamaku Teacher Cadet Program/Intro. To Early Childhood Education class through SLU.

“We never really had anything for the kids that want to go into education,” shared Tavares. “And so many of our kids have family members who are teachers or have been impacted by teachers.”

The dual credit classes create that opportunity.

“Itʻs been a really positive experience. Itʻs a little difficult cause itʻs college level, but the kids have really been right up to the task and pulling through,” said Tavares.

The class starts with exploring social issues like homelessness or drug abuse at home to see more depth to the role teachers play in the lives of their students beyond a “sage on the stage” role they recognize. Then in the second stage, students get to observe in the classroom with the elementary and middle school.

One of the positive effects all of the teachers recognize is the confidence that is built in students knowing that they are able to handle the rigor of college work. The classes also give students an opportunity to “try out” the career path or area of focus to get a real preview of if thatʻs the pathway they want to continue.

“Thatʻs the whole point of this class, is just to see what itʻs all about, see what that career is like and is that something you want to invest your time in,” shares Tavares. 

“My main hope is that they realize they are capable of handling college-level work. I really want them to consider the educational field as a career.”

World History teacher Dave Bellosi teaches an Intro to Humanities class offered through SLU. He emphasises that this is the right time and environment to try on something new for students, especially knowing that they have a built-in support system. While the classes arenʻt a direct replication of the college experience, students are getting the expectations of what is going to be in college.  

“This is one way to test the waters,” shared Bellosi.

“We donʻt put anyone in a situation in which they are going to fail. We build this for success.”

Bellosi compares the rigor of taking a college course with the idea behind the zone of proximal development.

“If youʻre going to work out, you need to lift a little heavier weight to get stronger every time. Everybody, to be growing, needs to challenge themselves.”

Communications 1200 teacher Connie Leyendecker is confident her students will be successful, because theyʻve already shown they can do it.

Having coached competitive speech on the national level, sheʻs see how students in her class can do the same thing and have already delivered world-class presentations.

“Students who are discussing with their parents what they can do to prepare for college and for life past Kamehameha Schools would do very well taking one of these classes,” shared Leyendecker.

“Research shows too that if students are more familiar with college before they go, theyʻre more likely to make it through the four years with the degree.”   

Anderson knows how valuable getting this kind of experience can be for students in not only getting to, but succeeding at the next level.

“Studies have shown that the first year, first semester is really the gatekeeping year and if students can find some early success, theyʻre more apt to do better, succeed academically. Persistence rates will go up, matriculation rates will go up as well. Hopefully theyʻll be able to attain their degrees and add to the broader Lāhui that we aspire to be,” said Anderson.

“My message to students and families would be ʻyou canʻ,” said Anderson. “Early success by students in this program has shown they have succeeded, so enroll, apply, try your best and you will succeed.” 

Recognizing the courage that it takes to do something new and add to an already busy workload, Anderson is thankful to those who have been willing to blaze the first path.

“The success of the program has been based on the success of the students and their commitment to doing well. So I applaud and congratulate them.” 

Kamehameha Schools aspires to deliver a world-class, Hawaiian culture-based education for students. By offering dual credit opportunities to students, KS hopes campus students can build momentum to not just take the next step to college, but complete their degree programs on-time.

For more information on the Kaunaloa dual enrollment program, contact the Office of the Dean of Studies at or call 982-0634.


SP2020 is a five-year strategic plan that will guide Kamehameha Schools from 2015 to 2020. The plan marks a starting point toward KS’ Vision 2040, which envisions success for all Native Hawaiian learners.

Dual credit opportunities like these support Goal 1 of SP2020 which call for KS to deliver world-class, culture-based education for its learners. It also supports Action 1 of Kamehameha’s Ten Actions for fiscal year 2016-17, advancing as a world-class KS school system.

Senior Cienna-Lei Daog has been a trailblazer for the Kaunaloa dual credit program, taking advantage of numerous opportunities and getting ahead in college.

World History teacher Dave Bellosi offers students an Intro to Humanities course through the Saint Louis University partnership, giving students a supportive environment to challenge themselves.

Speech teacher Connie Leyendecker helps her students prepare for an upcoming presentation for their Comms 1200 course.

English teacher Laura Tavares leads her Lamaku Teacher Cadet program students through a discussion on the effects of social issues.

Biology teacher Mario Patino uses an aquaponics lab to bring relevance to his students lessons.

Related articles

ks hawaii,imua kamehameha,campus,dual credit courses,dual enrollment,hui hoopili aina,saint louis university,kaunaloa dual credit program,goal 1,16-17action1,strategic plan,hawaii campus,sp2020

Kaipuolono Article, Themes, Leadership, Hawaii Newsroom, KS Hawaii Home, Hawaii High School, I Mua Kamehameha, Newsroom, Campus Programs, Hawaii

Print with photos Print text only