While the pandemic created stress and financial struggles for Pearl Bachiller’s family, the crisis also provided the Kamehameha Schools Maui senior with an unexpected opportunity.
After she graduates this month, she expects to enter the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa this fall as a sophomore. Bachiller was able to expedite her education because of KSM’s switch to distance learning last year and the launch of KS Digital, a gateway to an array of educational technology tools, accredited K-12 education and Hawaiian culture-based content.
“When distance learning actually came around, I really liked it and I was able to learn how to and practice managing more of my independent life like I would in college,” she said.
Even when the school moved to a hybrid model, Bachiller chose to continue distance learning with courses offered through the KS Digital partnership with Arizona State University. Through ASU Prep Digital, an online K-12 school, she said was able to get ahead since the coursework was posted for the entire semester.
“I’m lucky that I’m the kind of student that can sit down at home and do all my work because I know a lot of people struggle with keeping attention and stuff, but that was really fortunate for me to start doing because I really wanted to do distance learning,” said Bachiller.
The 18-year-old began working part-time at a dessert shop during the summer before her junior year. Juggling a job and her schoolwork hasn’t been easy, but the flexible schedule with online learning has helped.
“I’ve been using the money to save for higher education, but I also help out at home to cover bills and stuff, especially since the pandemic caused my dad, who’s like the main breadwinner in our house, to come out of work,” explained Bachiller. “Me and my brother have had to help out a lot, and it’s really helped me learn how to finance myself and everything I want to do.”
Since Bachiller’s only remaining high school requirements are finishing a couple of year-long courses, she filled her final semester with online classes from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Leeward Community College and Kapʻiolani Community College. She paid for them herself and chose courses that are requirements for the biology degree she plans to pursue.
“Pearl is outstanding,” said KSM Learning Success Coach Lauren Noa. “I know that COVID has brought its fair share of challenges, but it sometimes feels like it’s the silver lining in some of these things that we’re seeing, especially when it comes to education. A whole bunch of other doors opened, I feel.”
Bachiller is excited about reuniting with her classmates at commencement activities. She also looks forward to exploring the next chapter of her educational journey.
“Even though going to school and being there in person is important to our development, and also I understand important for KS for us to be there, I think offering this as an option is also really helpful to kids like me,” she said.