Higher Education

MEC gets funds for land acquisition.

A depiction of Phase 1 and 2 of the MEC campus shows the current buildings to the left of the dashed diagonal line in the picture’s left half. The portion to the right of the line shows Phase 2 on the three acres of land to be acquired.

By Catherine Cluett

Molokai boasts many successful college graduates, and now, thanks to $500,000 recently allocated by the state legislature to expand the Molokai Education Center (MEC), students will have more opportunities to complete their education right here on Molokai.

The three-acre land acquisition project was at the top of Senator Kalani English and Representative Mele Carroll’s legislative priority lists this year, according to Donna Haytko-Paoa, MEC’s Coordinator and Professor. She said the development project is phase two of the campus’ original plan, expanding the current two-acre campus to five acres.

“I’m just thrilled that it came through,” said Haytko-Paoa.

A Bigger Spread
The land earmarked for acquisition extends to the border of the adjacent Duke Maliu Park. It is currently owned by Molokai Ranch and leased by Monsanto. Phase one, which is the current 10,000 square-foot building, opened its doors in 1999.

Haytko-Paoa said the phase two facilities could include a science classroom and lab, more offices, another computer classroom and a large lecture hall. She added she also hopes plans will include a theatre or auditorium which could serve as the center of performing arts and culture on Molokai. But classroom space is currently spread thin, and Haytko-Paoa said additional classrooms will be the priority of the project.

“What makes it all worth while is the students and the results,” said Haytko-Paoa.

Growing Student Body
Haytko-Paoa said the Molokai campus’ average enrollment is 225-250 community college students per semester, not including the 25-30 students in Bachelor and Masters programs. She said enrollment is already way ahead of what it was this time last year.

“When the economy is bad, people go to school. When it’s good, people go to work,” said Haytko-Paoa.

The value of the land is not yet established. MEC, the Maui Community College’s Molokai campus, is a branch of the University of Hawaii (UH) and Haytko-Paoa said UH will assess and negotiate the property’s fair market value with Molokai Ranch. She said leftover funds from the $500,000 allocated for the acquisition will go back to the legislature.

There is currently no time frame set for construction. But once phase two is built, Haytko-Paoa said she expects enrollment to increase immediately by 50 percent. The more you can offer, she explained, the more you can get. Haytko-Paoa said the college’s current limited resources restrict the opportunities it can afford its students.

A History of Hard Work
In 2007, money for the land acquisition was on the wish list of both Senator English and Representative Carroll, but went no further, according to Haytko-Paoa. Finally, the funding went through legislature at the end of last month, and Haytko-Paoa credits Molokai’s “dire straits” as well as support showed by the University of Hawaii system.

The 1992 Molokai Community Plan set aside 15 acres for Maui Community College Molokai campus, and Haytko-Paoa has not lost sight of the big picture.

“We’re still holding out for 15 acres,” she said. “If you don’t have dreams, what do you have?”

Haytko-Paoa said the college’s long term vision is for a full-service campus that includes marine research, visual arts, culinary arts, and nursing training facilities, as well as a cafeteria and students’ gathering place.

“Just because we’re from Molokai, doesn’t mean we don’t have the faculty and students to excel,” she said.

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