Kauhale O Waianae, a school-community partnership between MAO Organic Farms, Waianae High School’s Searider Productions, and Makaha Studios, is helping 75 young adults from Waianae attend community colleges.
Student interns will earn college tuition waivers (as well as $500 monthly stipends) via sweat equity accrued either as farmers on MAO Organic Farm (Oahu's largest organic farm), or as digital specialists at two of Waianae's nationally recognized digital media programs - Waianae High's Searider Productions or its for-profit spin-off, Makaha Studios.
Interns are spread across three University of Hawaii institutions, including Leeward Community College, UH Manoa, and the newly established UH West Oahu campuses. Sixty-six interns currently attend Leeward Community College, nine of whom have graduated with an Associates of Arts degree, and are currently in advanced internships that help them complete a four year degree.
"Kauhale has helped me with my education because when you come from a big family times are really hard financial wise,” said intern Sanoe Hamilton, who attends LCC. “Kauhale offers a lot of support when it comes to school and personal reasons, and that is what is motivating me to stick to college and actually finish.”
Miki Arasato, who is now at UH West Oahu, is helping design a program that will teach sustainable agriculture.
“As a graduate of Kauhale’s two-year degree, my advanced internship is continuing to provide me real-life work experience while paying for my degree,” said Arasato. “I currently plan to be an organic farmer when I graduate."
Kukui Maunakea-Forth, Kauhale’s executive director, points to strategic partnerships behind the numbers.
"Collaboration is key to community development. Years of activism has proven that you cannot change systemic poverty working in silos. These 75 youth represent many hands working in concert to both lift them up as well as hold them responsible to themselves and their community."
Searider Production’s Director Candy Suiso shares Kukui's sentiments.
"Partnering has been the key,” she said. “These successes, relative to the challenges that our community face, have not only been substantive here, but have also resonated nationally. We now have individuals and institutions as powerful and diverse as the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and First Lady Michelle Obama as allies.”
Farm manager Gary Maunakea-Forth feels Kauhale’s social enterprise model is key to empowering the community.
“Our goal is to send Waianae youth to college and build sustainable, living wage jobs for them to return to,” he said. “These 75 youth represent the generation that will lead our community past these negative headlines.”