Kamehameha Schools Kapālama’s first AA graduates: Where are they now?

May. 13, 2024

Last year, for the first time, 99 members of the Kamehameha Schools Kapālama class of 2023 graduated with their high school diploma and an additional degree: Associate of Arts in general studies from Hawaiʻi Pacific University. Nearly all those students went on to college in the fall; with the few exceptions going on religious missions or training.

Lessons learned from this first cohort show major benefits for college-bound haumāna and their ‘ohana.

Over half of the cohort members were able to transfer all their credits, starting college with junior class standing and opening a world of possibilities. For both students and parents, the overwhelming benefit in shortening their time to a bachelor’s degree is financial savings.

“This program has saved our student over $100,000 in debt by taking off 2 years of college tuition,” said Tami Adams.

Her daughter, Bella, was able to enter Ithaca College as a junior majoring in sports media. “The financial burden for students and parents today is the biggest deterrent to furthering their education. No one sets out to put themselves and/or their child into financial debt.”

As a transition specialist at the Kapālama campus, Derrick Kang has a front-row seat to the additional opportunities students with an AA can consider. Haumāna of this program even get a jumpstart on registering for classes because of their junior standing.

“It's allowing things like picking up a double major; another student said they might be able to do a study abroad. It opens up that flexibility to do additional things,” Kang said.

He says these benefits pay off even if a student pursues a course of study that is not shortened by having the AA degree, such as nursing or engineering.

Sophia Sumile KSK’23 was able to start as a junior at Oregon State University majoring in psychology.

“Personally, I have a pretty good idea of what I want for my future, so this program was an incredible opportunity to help me reach my goals faster,” Sumile said.

She plans to come back home to pursue a graduate degree after she graduates next year. More than half of the 2023 cohort remained in Hawaiʻi to continue their education.

With all its success, the dual credit program might not be the best option for everyone, as the benefits depend on the student’s goals. One-quarter of the students in the cohort could not transfer any credits.

For Jadon Koa Dumlao KSK’23, the dual credit program was worth it even though his top-choice school, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, did not accept the AA credits.

“The AA degree helped me present myself as a more academically prepared candidate as that was a point of focus that I used for my application. All in all, I believe it contributed to me getting into the academy.”

Kang, as well as counselor Koa Amona, caution that the academic rigors of the dual credit degree can conflict with some students’ goals, especially those with intense extracurricular involvement or those who aren’t sure what they want to study after high school.

Amona says these classes must fit into your schedule.

“We talk about the benefits of the degree and its impact financially. But does it help you meet your goal? Whatever your career plan is, does it help you get there?” Amona asked.

For Sumile, that answer was very clear.

“I wholeheartedly believe that this program is wonderful in many ways and allowed me to build a better future for myself. I am so grateful to Pauahi for this opportunity to better my future and forge a new path for my fellow Warriors.”

Belle Adams KSK’23 earned her AA degree while in high school, starting at Ithaca College with junior standing and saving over $100,000 in tuition costs.