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Molokai High School’s Bold Move to Academies

Community Contributed

By Richard Ornellas

Molokai High School (MHS) is meeting the emerging opportunities of 21st century life for their students in a bold move to College and Career Academies: instruction based on career pathways rather than English, math, science, social studies and electives. Mirroring the trend in Hawaii for public high schools to become more relevant for post-high school life, such as the successful Waipahu High School academies model, initiated by former principal, Keith Hayashi, now DOE Superintendent, MHS has begun their transition.

The academies are Community Service and Sustainability (CSS) with Team Lead Lisa Takata, and Innovation Business and Technology (IBT) with Team Lead Kai Ward, and O Hina I Ka Malama, the Hawaiian Immersion Language Academy, Lead Mahinahou Ross. Overseeing the entire academy structure is MHS Principal, Dr. Katina Soares.

Academies are aligned to Hawaii DOE standards for Career Technical Education with corresponding career pathways. The pathways make students aware of possible career choices through exploration, preparation, and training. Students also learn the numerous career clusters within different industries or fields and learn to expand their list of career possibilities. 

The academies also plan to provide industry standards that meet business and industry requirements. When programs of study at industry standards are implemented, MHS students will learn necessary technical knowledge and skills to move from high school to successful postsecondary education or careers.

The challenges are many, and the MHS faculty is aware that the shift to academies will be a process.

“It will just take time for all of the gears to align and move together,” said Ward. 

Takata agreed. 

“The academies are going to take a few years to implement,” she said. “But in the meantime, hopefully our faculty turnover doesn’t increase, and we don’t lose too many teachers to retirement, etc. so we can build a strong foundation.” 

Junior Aiko Kanemitsu also adds a student perspective. 

“High school should be a time of exploration and experimentation. Students should not be required to take merely career-focused electives, especially when the electives MHS offers are somewhat limited in the first place,” she said. 

Nonetheless, there is hope for this new transition. 

“Just implementing academies this fall after years of planning through a pandemic is an accomplishment. We will constantly work to improve our academies in the years to come,” said Soares. 

Kumu Mahinahou also added that, “Mākaukau loa mākou no kēia mea he ‘academy’ no ka mea ʻo ia kā mākou hana i kēia mau makahiki i hala aku nei he nui a lehulehu.  Komo nō mākou i ka hana PBL, kōkua mākou i ke kaiaulu, a e hōʻike maoli makou i ka lehulehu i ke ola o ka ʻōlelo Hawaii ma Molokai nei a me ke kula kiʻekiʻe o Molokai kekahi,” highlighting that O Hina I Ka Malama is also ready for the shift.


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