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KSK Transition Specialist Derrick Kang visited the University of Portland and made connections with young KSK alumni and met other Hawaiʻi students.

New department helps young alumni transition into college, career and life after graduation

Dec. 6, 2023

In October at Oregon State University, recent Kamehameha Schools grads found themselves gathered together, surprised to be gifted with a taste of home: spam musubi handmade by Derrick Kang. He’s one of KSK’s new team of transition specialists - staff whose mission it is to support haumāna after they leave campus. KSK has six transition specialists; KS Hawai‘i and KS Maui have two each. “Their caseload is the young alums in their first two years post high school,” according to Kathryn Kekaulike, Dean of College and Career. This new department was created in 2022 partially to combat “summer melt,” a term often used for the discrepancy between the graduating seniors who say they plan to attend college - and the number who actually enroll.

“It's really building a program to be much more intentional about supporting students after they walk across the stage and get their Kamehameha diploma,” she said, emphasizing that students receive support from their transition specialists no matter what path they choose after graduation. “We're supporting them if they're going on a mission, or they're going into the workforce, or they're needing to take some time off for family situations. We're still reaching out to say, ‘Hey, how are you doing? How's your job going? Do you need any help with resume building,’ whatever the needs may be.”

“It's as simple as just talking story with them,” said Kang, who made the in-person visit to students in Oregon. Kang and the rest of the team intentionally reach out 3 times per year, “asking them, what's the adjustment been like? How engaged are you at the school, and if there was a little bit of homesickness, then talking about what can be done.” Beyond their own outreach, they welcome students to seek them out when they are experiencing difficulties, whether it’s navigating financial aid, roommate problems, or career advice - even after the initial two years post-graduation.  “Check in with us when you need us. We're here, you let us know how we can help,” said Kekaulike.

With no similar program elsewhere in the state of Hawai‘i outside of the Kamehameha Schools, the team plans to collect data and evaluate best practices as their program evolves. So far, student response has been overwhelmingly positive. “My transition specialist has been essential to helping me navigate living in a different country with people from around the world. It is so incredibly refreshing to speak to someone from home that not only listens and provides fantastic advice and resources but also understands KS life and what I miss from home,” said Lily Mitchell, KSK ‘22

Like they did in Oregon, whenever possible, the transition specialist team looks to connect their students attending college away from Hawai‘i with older alumni living nearby. “ It's really great to have those aunties, uncles, kupuna on the ground to really step in,” Kekaulike said, as another connection to home and culture.


Kekaulike is clear on her department’s role in extending Kameheameha’s mission. “Pauahi left everything believing that education was the way to save her people. Initially, that was a high school diploma. I feel we're still doing what Pauahi wanted, but a high school diploma isn't always enough in this day and age. There's so many more options educationally and professionally than probably any of us could have imagined back in those days.”

She says of her colleagues and their commitment to navigating those options with young alums, “We're in it to win it for this generation of young alums right now. When people engage  they always come away feeling more connected, feeling better, feeling reassured. There's definitely a need, it has probably always been there, we're just blessed to be able to step into that space now!”

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