search logo

Lenard Topenio (left) and Emerald Umiamaka-Spencer (right) are on the path to earning a college degree without having to move from their homes in West Hawaiʻi thanks to the launch of ASU Local, a partnership between KS Kaiāulu and Arizona State Univeristy that provides students the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University from the comfort of their home community.

KS Kaiāulu, Arizona State University partner to host a new pathway to college

May 18, 2023

Emerald Umiamaka-Spencer loves her job with the Boys & Girls Club in West Hawai‘i and was searching for a way  she could keep it while pursuing a four-year college degree. With limited opportunities to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Kona, the Konawaena High School graduate thought she might have to move from her home in Keālia, Kona, to further her education, which was worrisome to her.

In an effort to provide students like Umiamaka-Spencer a way to get a bachelor’s degree without leaving their home community, Arizona State Univeristy (ASU) and Kamehameha Schools Kaiāulu (KS Kaiāulu) are partnering to host a new pathway to college, ASU Local, with the blessing of a newly-renovated space that is housing the first site in the state.

“It’s important for me to stay at home so that I could be with my family and support my family and still be there for everyone,” said Umiamaka-Spencer who plans to major in psychology as a student of ASU Local based in West Hawaiʻi.

ASU Local is located at the Kamehameha Schools-owned Keauhou Shopping Center on the west side of Hawai‘i Island where its community of students, coaches, and staff will come together. As part of ASU Local’s in-person, close-knit student community, a coach will guide students throughout their college journey and be directly responsible for student well-being and success through intentionally designed learning experiences, including one-on-one conversations, workshops and other group activities. The program is actively accepting applications on a rolling basis for the fall 2023 semester.

This collaboration provides a unique and innovative educational opportunity for West Hawaiʻi Island students that combines the rich Hawaiian culture and 'āina-focused experiences that KS Kaiāulu offers with the in-person and online community-focused education that ASU Local provides. With a vast array of more than 140 online majors to select from, students have the flexibility of online course delivery with personalized, in-person coaching and comprehensive career support that ensures every student has the freedom to tailor their college experience with ease. Both institutions are committed to helping students grow and be inspired to strengthen their home communities and create positive change in the world.

“All haumāna deserve an opportunity to seek higher education right in their own community. This ASU partnership helps Native Hawaiians and all students from this community to fulfill their dreams of earning a college degree while remaining rooted to everything they care about in their home communities,” said Waiʻaleʻale Sarsona, Kamehameha Schools vice president of Hiʻialo, who leads a wide array of Kamehameha Schools’ community-focused efforts and partnerships. “We engage in these kinds of strategic partnerships to create opportunities to grow the next generation of leaders who will contribute to healthy, culturally vibrant communities.”

“We are excited about bringing ASU Local to West Hawaiʻi so that our students and partners can help shape the program based on this special community’s evolving needs,” said Maria Anguiano, the executive vice president of ASU Learning Enterprise who co-founded the program. “By combining personal mentorship from coaches with connections to peers, we aim to empower students to grow their network while building their capacity to thrive in today’s workforce. Opportunity can start at home.”

Financial aid is available for qualified applicants, including the ASU Local Scholarship, which promotes equal access to educational opportunities for all students seeking a hybrid undergraduate degree experience. Student Support Coaches will work with students to identify suitable aid opportunities for eligible students. Interested applicants can find more information about ASU Local at or at

Umiamaka-Spencer, and her friend, Lenard Topenio, who will be majoring in community health in the fall, encourage others in similar situations to apply.

“They can work and study and stay at home,” Topenio said. “It will be a great opportunity for them.”

asu local,kaiāulu,partnerships

Kaipuolono Article, Regions, West Hawai’i, Themes, Culture, Community, KS Announcements, Newsroom, Community Education

Print with photos Print text only