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From island to Mainland

KAPAA — This spring break, members of Kapaa High School’s Hui Lama Ku O Ka Noeau Club will be looking further than the beach. They’ll be looking to the West Coast and their future education.

Ten juniors and seniors will travel to the Mainland for a week of exploring colleges and universities in Oregon and Washington, attending presentations and visiting historical landmarks.

“I’m super excited,” said senior Kayla Jimenez, the club’s president. “All the colleges I applied to are the colleges that we’re going to and they’re all in Oregon.”

The group will be accompanied by club advisers and ninth-grade English teachers, Kahele Keawe and Cheryl Morita.

“It’s a big undertaking but I think the benefits the kids will have will be something that will impact their lives and that’s what we want,” said Morita. “We just wanted to expose them to what’s out there beyond Kauai.”

Keawe agreed.

“We really just want to help them,” said Keawe. “We want to give them this opportunity, to expose them to colleges.”

Traveling from March 16-23, the group will visit schools such as Lewis & Clark College, Linfield College, Southern Oregon University, Portland State University, the University of Puget Sound, the University of Oregon, Pacific University and the University of Washington.

Many of the students will be the first in their families to attend college — including the club’s president.

“I feel very special in a way,” said Jimenez. “It feels great, actually, because now I know I can actually go to college to further my education. I wanted to experience new things.”

The club’s secretary, Eryka Keaho, will also be the first in her family to attend college out of state, and she is looking forward to the experience.

“I’m really excited,” said Keaho. “My parents are actually really excited. It’s a bittersweet feeling ‘cause I’m really close with my parents and knowing that I’m going to be away is hard, but I’m willing to work through it.”

Keaho has decided upon Southern Oregon University, where she wants to major in physical therapy. Keaho is also looking forward to playing either soccer or volleyball and will speak with two coaches during the club trip.

“I wanted to play sports at the next level,” said Keaho. “I wanted to play volleyball so I kind of need to push myself to work harder in school.”

The club’s vice president, Maka Ah Loo, will be the first in his family to graduate from high school and attend college on the Mainland. He wants to major in criminal justice.

“Honestly, it’s like an honor. I was dreaming of (attending college) since I was a little kid,” said Loo. “I’ve applied to many of the schools that we’re going to visit so it’s a chance for me to get to know all the schools and explore and visit the football coaches, so I’m excited.”

Another club member, Junard Mata, immigrated to the United States from the Philippines and will be the first in his family to attend college.

“I’m like really excited about it, it motivates me to keep going, being the first one,” said Mata. “I’m excited about it because I’m still a junior and I still have next year to plan what college I’m going to, so this is going to help me pick.”

Keawe and Morita have known these seniors since they were freshman, and got to know them better when Kapaa High initiated smaller community classes in 2011 in an effort to improve the students’ education.

“We noticed that in their senior year, a lot of them were looking to go to college and they needed help,” said Keawe. “So, we started working with them. I think, for many of them, they wouldn’t have the opportunity to go on their own.”

After Jimenez presented the idea of having the students visit colleges on the West Coast, Keawe and Morita formed Hui Lama Ku O Ka Noeau under the instruction of the school’s administration.

The teachers selected the club’s members by looking at their community service activities, service learning, leadership, student involvement and academics.

“I think there’s a real emphasis on preparing the students for college and careers,” said Keawe. “We want to continue to promote a college learning culture.”

Through fundraising efforts, the students of Hui Lama Ku O’ Ka No’ea have raised $10,000 for the trip and are hoping to reach $14,000 before they leave.

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