Education is the only way out of poverty, and education is the only way to break an unfortunate cycle in unfortunate family situations. But many statistics on education in the state of Hawaii are very alarming and disappointing.

For example, Hawaii public schools rank No. 29 for education out of all the states. The national college graduation rate in the U.S. is 59 percent in the state of Hawaii it is 31.4 percent.

Studies show that individuals who attend college and earn a bachelor’s degree make on average around $17,500 more than someone who did not attend college. Studies also show that individuals that attended college are more likely to secure a full-time job, rather than their counterparts who have not attended college.

People with a college degree are also less likely to be unemployed. In contrast, millennials with a high school diploma or less are more likely than a college graduate to say that their work is “just a job to get them by.”

Tents and other homeless structures along Cooke Street at Mother Waldron Playground in kakaako.

Tents and other homeless structures along Cooke Street at Mother Waldron Playground in kakaako, December 2017. Such camps include many children.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Boys and girls coming from certain neighborhoods that are usually low income, are even less likely to go to college and obtain higher education. Areas such as Waianae, Hawaiian Paradise Park and Maili are some of the poorest neighborhoods in Hawaii.

These neighborhoods rank the lowest based on education, income level, home value and unemployment rate. Most kids who come from these neighborhoods usually do not attend college, therefore they repeat the cycle that they were born into.

According to Kids Count Data, one in eight children in the state of Hawaii live in poverty. That’s over 40,000 children. The homeless children in Hawaii have to live without running water, electricity and daily meals. There are homeless kids living in cars, tents and bushes.

More Sobering Stats

Aside from the homelessness problem in Hawaii, the state has an ongoing drug-abuse problem, especially in young adolescents. Hawaii ranked fourth in the nation for high school students (31.7 percent) who were offered, sold or given an illegal drug by someone on school property.

All these points underscore just how much education matters. But a lot of times, if a child is homeless or comes from a family where drugs are involved, education is not the first thing on their mind. In fact, it is the last thing on their mind.

There are homeless kids living in cars, tents and bushes.

That must change. Here’s how:

When teachers are teaching in a classroom, they should take the time out to get to know every student if they can. Teachers should take the initiative to find out what is going on with a child at home, to evaluate the best way to teach them when it comes to their education.

Education is the only way a child is going to break the cycle and escape poverty. For a child to receive an education, that gives them the opportunity to go to college, to expand their mindset, to know their rights and wrongs, and to stay away from certain influences in the world. We should be encouraging the youth in Hawaii to attend college, and to take their education seriously.

As a society we don’t value education as much as we should be. We need to make sure as teachers and as educators we should be pushing to encourage students of all backgrounds to go to schools. We need to break the cycle, to ensure not only a better future for us, but for the children.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author