KCC grows a healthy community

Our own college, Kaua‘i Community College, as part of the University of Hawai‘i, has a very health-oriented focus in many of its departments. Two weeks ago, the Friends of KCC conducted the first “Hele On” tour on campus. It was a wonderful tour encompassing the apiary, the Cognition Learning Center, plus the Hawaiian studies and nursing departments and clearly demonstrated the level of excellence at KCC. Some of these newer programs are a result of the innovative vision and leadership of Chancellor Helen Cox and her dedicated faculty and staff.

The tour started at the Cognition Learning Center, which connects innovation and education for Kaua‘i’s students. The stated mission of the center is to showcase innovative and sustainable pedagogy (the science and art of education — from the full development of the human being to skills acquisition) that promotes hands-on learning with an emphasis on the joy of discovery.

The Cognition Learning Center has produced projects focusing on sustainability, vehicle conversion, biomimicry, robotics, 3-D printing, gigapixel imaging and processing and much more. You can find out more about their exciting projects at http://info.kauai.hawaii.edu.cogs/. If you are an expert in a field of scientific research, you might consider getting involved as a volunteer at the center.

The next part of the tour was sweet. We visited the apiary and got a chance to see how KCC is working to save the honey bees from deadly parasites that are rampant on the Mainland. We also got to see honey being spun out of the honey comb and then taste the delicious, fresh, pure honey. (I managed to snag two pounds of pure KCC honey for only $10, too). Another project that the apiary is involved in is the production and sale of queen bees. Who knew that would be so lucrative? Very interesting department.

We went on to the Hawaiian studies department, where we were greeted with traditional chants and freshly-made ti leaf lei. The pride of the students and teachers was extremely evident. Some might think that the study of Hawaiian traditions, languages, herbalism, medicine and religion is in “a nice to know, but not need to know” category, but the professors at the college were quick to point out all the areas in tourism, academics, archeology and history where these skills are necessary, relevant and important. Chancellor Cox is currently taking Hawaiian language studies and, according to her teachers, is doing very well.

The nursing department of KCC is state of the art. The tour took us through areas where we could see students practicing on mannequins that simulate real health events. Some of the mannequins are pediatric, others are adult, and all can be dressed or outfitted to simulate various aspects of health incidents — from a pregnant teenager to an elder with a failing heart.

Teachers can control the signs and symptoms of the mannequin patient from a control room and students can watch their colleagues try to deal with the staged events successfully. Teachers at the school said they try not to let the mannequins perish while the nursing students practice on them.

In addition to the excellent teachers and equipment, one thing that impressed me greatly was the school’s vision for expansion into allied health services.

The college wants to expand into licensed massage therapy, nursing assistant and home care worker programs to aid the community with the inevitable shortage of health care providers that will come with our aging population. The other aspect of the nursing school was the expense of the necessary teaching equipment. We were asked to guess how much one of the teaching mannequins cost. I figured (knowing that medical anything is costly) maybe $20,000, given that it is programmable and very durable (although not indestructible). We were told the price tag is $100,000 each!

The final part of the tour brought us to the culinary arts department where we heard brief remarks from Chancellor Cox and had a wonderful luncheon prepared and served by the students of the KCC culinary program, under the direction of professors Martina Hilldorfer and Steven Nakata.

If you haven’t been to the college to experience their fine dining (at a fraction of the cost) you need to go. Very impressive. It was during this talk that we learned more about the focus for the future of the college and its need and desire to grow and expand into a more global center of learning.

Currently, the off-island enrollment is very small and those who come to study must find accommodation either with relatives or privately. The college needs a dormitory. The college needs to upgrade the beautiful but sadly out-dated Hawaiian Arts building.

The students currently must practice hula on the lanai, while others try to study inside within feet of their practice. There is no student gathering place. The sense of community on the campus, while strong, has no formal place for students to gather, study and relax together.

There are pressing needs throughout the campus and yet an impressive vision and advancement. The purpose of the “Hele On” tours is to raise community awareness of the jewel we have in the college and to see who will step forward to ensure that our treasure is protected and grows.

• Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., C.N.A., can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, 808-212-1451 or www.janerileyfitness.com.


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