HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's that time of the year again. Graduation season is in full swing, and for one group of students on Oahu, commencement means so much more than a diploma. It gives them a hand up - after a difficult start to life.
It's commencement day for the class of 2011, but these 48 graduates aren't like most. These students from Ka Pa'alana traveling preschool on the leeward coast live in shelters, on beaches, emergency sites, and in public housing.
The preschool comes to the children - with a makeshift classroom where they get a foundation for learning.
"It's very exciting," says Wayne Ciaris, about graduation day his daughter, Portia. "My daughter came a long way. She was only two-months old when she started Ka Pa'alana. And now, she's going to enter kindergarten!"
Like most graduations, there's a keynote address. "You guys have accomplished something very, very special," says Mika Kane, the keynote speaker, as he sits on the ground with the children.
There's also a class song. "I'm so special, so very special. There is nobody quite like me!" the students sing in unison.
And there are balloons, signs, and lots of leis. Each child also gets a backpack filled with school supplies for next year. But what administrators hope to bring most to these kids is a sense of worth.
Ka Pa'alana school administrator, Danny Goya, says "It was vital and important to me that we have, that our children get the same amount of attention and detail to their big day that anybody else would have."
Unfortunately, this preschool is in jeopardy. Just this week, it lost all its state funding. It's getting help from grants, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and Kamehameha schools, but state cuts hurt.
Goya says their program hasn't only helped at-risk kids but their families, too. "We're much more than a preschool because we prepare adults for work. We help marriages, we provide services and referrals for drug treatment."
More than one parent can attest to that. At one point, years ago, Cheryl-Lee Kekumu found herself divorced, homeless, with three kids to care for. "And they helped me learn how to be a parent. A single parent. A parent in general. I'm really strict and stern, and it used to be hard for me to give love or even praises." Since being with the program, she says she's changed for the better.
Despite the cuts, Goya says this traveling preschool will make do - with hopes of giving more youngsters the chance to graduate to greatness.
Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.
Hawaii News Now
420 Waiakamilo Road, Suite 205
Honolulu, HI 96817
Main (808) 847-3246
News (808) 847-1112