HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a third-floor office in the Queen Liliuokalani Student Center, about a dozen students sit around a large table chatting and laughing.
They are part of University of Hawaii at Manoa’s latest class to complete the College Opportunities Program ― or COP.
“The COP program is life-changing,” said Natalie Donahue, a program participant.
It’s called a pathway and a second chance into the university for high school graduates whose grades or financial situations kept them out.
“Our basic mission is to recruit, screen, select, pretty much prepare Hawaii residents for a successful first year here at UH Manoa,” Program Director Michael Maglaya said.
Students who are accepted must complete an intensive six-week summer course. They live in the dormitories and work on academic and social skills. UH pays for the tuition, books and housing.
Umi a Liloa Ching-Nakama didn't think college was a possibility until he got into the program.
“We had budgeting workshops, financial aid workshops, scholarship workshops. That opened my eyes to all the resources available that may not be obvious to see at first,” he said.
The students take courses in world history, writing and college success. They learn in the classroom and in the field.
“The environment that this program sets up for students to learn and to grow in college is such a perfect foundation for growth,” Donahue said.
The College Opportunities Program started in 1970 and has helped about 3,800 students enter UH Manoa. This year, all 61 students successfully completed the summer session are enrolled for the fall semester.
"They all have the same goal, to get into UH," Ching-Nakama said.
He's graduating this year. Donahue graduates next year.
Maglaya said if not for the College Opportunities Program, thousands of students “wouldn’t have earned a degree.”
And on Saturday, COP celebrates its 50th anniversary.