KONA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - In spite of heavy downpours and cloudy skies, the University of Hawaii commenced its fall semester on Monday with approximately 400 students starting their first day of classes at the system's newest community college branch campus on Kona.
"It means a lot," student Leticia Morales said. "It's a lot closer to home and I don't have to travel so far to Kelakekua or Hilo. Yeah, I am very excited about this new campus."
The first phase of the Palamanui Hawaii Community College campus, costing about $27 million, includes 24,000 square feet of learning space made up of classrooms, teaching kitchens, science labs and a nursing lab.
"This campus is crazy," student Keanu Ushiroda said. "It's really, really nice. I wasn't expecting it to be looking like this. It's kind of passed my expectations."
The first day of classes marked a milestone for community leaders who have pushed for years to build a permanent home for higher education in West Hawaii.
"Holding our first classes today at this wonderful campus is a credit to the vision of the West Hawaii community," said K. Marty Fletcher, director of Palamanui. "Community members, their elected representatives and the UH system have worked hard over many years toward establishing West Hawaii's own higher education landmark."
Once completed, phases two and three would bring the campus capacity to 1,400 students.
The school will host a grand opening and open house in October to celebrate the new campus.