In an effort to boost college-going and completion rates in underserved communities, the Onipaa program gets high school seniors on the Waianae Coast acquainted with the college experience before classes even start.

Students who participate in the five-day program, which was first implemented last year, even get a college credit once they complete it.

The program is open to current Waianae Coast seniors who are planning to attend the University of Hawaii – West Oahu, UH Manoa or Leeward Community College this fall. Students experience the rigor of college life both in and outside the classroom, visiting each campus to learn about available support services, familiarize themselves with the campus and connect with peer mentors.

They even spend a night in a dorm at UH Manoa. 

“The aim is to nurture a student mindset of resilience, determination and connection for post-high success,” a press release says. 

At Nanakuli, for example, while half of graduating seniors end up getting into college, only a third end up actually attending their first year of college. And the overall degree attainment statistic is dramatically smaller, with only 9 percent of the population having earned a four-year degree. 

The Onipaa program is put together by UH, Gear Up Hawaii, TRIO Student Support Services and Kamehameha Schools’ Ka Pua Initiative.

This year’s program runs June 2 through June 6. 

Contact information for interested students: 

Amber Caracol ( at the Waianae High School Career & Community Center, 697-9494.

Hilary Arakaki ( at the Nanakuli High and Intermediate School METS Office E1 & 2, 668-5867 ext. 345.

Photo: Students at LCC. (Courtesy of LCC via Flickr)

— Alia Wong

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