Kamehameha Scholars helps teens cope with COVID-19 impacts

Apr. 21, 2020

Contributed by Kyle Galdeira

Seventeen-year-old Ka‘io Nagai has been homeschooled since he was little, but during his freshman year, he and his parents decided it might be a good idea for him to meet other kids his own age.

“Being homeschooled, I don’t get much social interaction,” said Nagai, a senior from Hilo who is getting ready to graduate.

That decision led to him to enroll in Kamehameha Scholars, the nationally-acclaimed college and career counseling program that provides students in grades nine through 12 with post-secondary planning, year-round workshops, and interactive lessons grounded in Native Hawaiian culture.

But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, resulting in stay-at-home orders, closed schools and distance learning for students. Nagai soon found himself using his homeschooling experience to help his fellow scholars cope with being stuck in their houses.

“It’s not as traumatic of a change for me as other people are experiencing,” Nagai said. “With being homeschooled so long, I was kind of used to being in the house, on my own. I wouldn’t say (the coronavirus impacts) had changed my daily life.”

One person he helped was fellow scholar Holli-Jae Macanas of Hakalau.

“Me and Ka‘io, we talk about our lives. He’s given me options and we talk about what we’ve done throughout the day. We give each other tips to help each other out through the crisis. He’s my main guy,” said Macanas, a senior at Hilo High School.

“I would give tips on how to keep focused, keep yourself accountable, working on time management – tips such as that,” Nagai said. “I felt really happy because, for once, everyone in the world is kind of living like how me and a lot of other homeschoolers have been living. I hope I helped them.”

Kamehameha Scholars and its counselors are a piece of that larger support network for students and their ʻohana especially during crises, said Kamehameha Scholars East Hawai‘i Counselor Jessica Waiau.

“It is in these toughest of times that we need to remember that we are all connected and to be there to support one another,” Waiau said. “We continue to connect with them across the physical space so that they can continue to ‘auamo their kuleana to succeed for the betterment of our lāhui.”

Kamehameha Scholars is now open to new applicants entering grades nine or 10 in the fall of 2020. The deadline to apply is April 30. For more information on the program or the enrollment process, visit https://apps.ksbe.edu/kscholars/

In a first-of-its-kind national honor for a community education program, the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) selected Kamehameha Scholars as a Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) in 2017.

The RAMP designation recognizes programs that are committed to delivering a comprehensive, data-driven school counseling program and an exemplary educational environment.

Kamehameha Scholars is a statewide KS community education program for students across Hawai‘i that assists public and private high school students in attaining higher education goals. The program’s staff includes counselors from O‘ahu, East and West Hawai‘i, Maui and Kaua‘i representing Kealakūlia, a division within KS’ Community Engagement and Resources Group, which focuses on connecting KS and community resources to address educational needs specific to individual communities.

Kamehameha Scholars East Hawai‘i Counselor Jessica Waiau (in the second square at the top) has gathered her Scholars’ haumāna virtually via videoconferencing since COVID-19 impacts have closed schools and thrust students into distance learning. Scholars say the sessions have helped them to cope with the trauma and realities of the pandemic.