Nicole Ryan, college and career coordinator at Honokaa High School, and Lily Everson, AmeriCorp VISTA volunteer, are at the heart of the school’s College and Career Counseling Center. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Senior Kekoa Phenice plans to attend Hawaii Community College and earn a liberal arts degree before entering the Marine Science program at San Diego State University. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
After filling out the FAFSA Tisha Sugse, a Honokaa High School senior, and her family discovered she was eligible for financial aid to help pay for college. She will be attending the University of Nevada at Las Vegas next year. She credits the Counseling Center with guiding her through the steps necessary to make college possible for her and her family. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
The staff that makes it happen at the College and Career Counseling Center. From left to right, Janice Kim, support staff, Miriah Petruzzi and Lily Everson, Vista Volunteers, and Nicole Ryan. The box of notebooks are this year’s senior projects. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Honokaa High School senior, Jennifer Bala, fills out a Rotary scholarship in the College and Career Counseling Center. Jennifer plans to attend Kapiolani College on Oahu to become an ultra sound technician. After that she would like to attend the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Fellow senior Kayla Makui reviews her notes in the background. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Honokaa High School students work in the College and Career Counseling Center. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
On the wall next to the entrance of Honokaa High School’s new college and career center is a wall with a map locating the colleges where recently graduated students will go in the fall.
The school’s new college and career center, carved out of former library space, represents a new paradigm for Honokaa seniors – each one must spend their final year exploring a plan for their future and leave the school with a well-developed choice after graduation.
“The genesis was the idea that we wanted to make sure all students got access to the piece they need to navigate through, in order to get into college,” said Glenn Gray, principal of Honokaa High School.
The HHS college and career center walls are covered in college materials, and there are tables for students to work alone, in groups, or with a guidance counselor. The school appointed Nicole Ryan as college and career coordinator with a small team of counselors to help, including Kasey Eisenhour and Marlise Lambert.
“We did a survey of the whole school, and the majority of students said they wanted to go to a four-year school,” Ryan said. “That should drive what we do as a school – we should be geared to give them the tools.”
“If they are not college bound — and there are a some that have chosen to go into the military or directly into the workforce — the goal with them is to work with them to find a career,” She said. “Not just a job, but a career where they can see themselves for many years.”
The school also added a senior Advanced Guidance class as part of the college and career center. During the period, seniors go to the college and career center and work on a personal transition plan, which includes creating resumes, filling out college applications, and completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid scholarships to prepare for the next step after high school. They could also work on their required 10-page senior project.
“We wanted to make sure every senior filled out the FAFSA, the financial aid forms, and we offered trainings,” Gray said. “If the chance comes to go to college, they have already done their paperwork (to apply for financial aid) and have it out of the way.”
“Because we have 60 to 70 percent on free or reduced lunch, that means they are eligible for a PELL grant which is up to $5,500 in free grant money for school,” Ryan said. “That would pretty much cover tuition at UH Hilo or any of the community colleges.”
Ryan said the center is the perfect place for them to get help understanding tax information and other complicated information needed to complete forms.
Kasey Eisenhour, school counselor, said another piece they are looking at is, not only how many enroll and get accepted, but also how many actually show up on the first day of college classes and finish.
She said they now have two AmeriCorp VISTAs who have made a yearlong commitment to help them in the career center. Eisenhour said they will be assigned to the school until December, so they will help follow up with the recently graduated seniors.
This year, they have had 55 guest speakers at the school to introduce them to careers and post graduation topics. They also started parent “talk story” nights at 5:30 p.m. to address topics such as financial aid and how to choose a college. Ryan said there were at least 40 parents who attended each of the first two events. They also do a newsletter that addresses college and career issues.
“There is positive energy on campus,” Ryan said. “That is one place that all teachers and all staff can come from — we just want to help the students. It has made a difference.”
Gray said that this year, his goal was to meet with every senior individually.
“What I have heard from them was that they like the college career center,” Gray said. “They are excited for it. It has helped them to make new plans, and it opened their eyes.”
For more information on the Honokaa college and career center, contact Nicole Ryan at 775-8800, ext.308, or visit their website at http://honokaaweb.sharepoint.com/Academics/CCC/SitePages/Home.aspx.