As University Enrollment Rates Fall, Trade School in Makaha Fills a Need


HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — Future senior Kekai Makepa-Kapahu is ready for the next chapter in his life.

“The way I grew up is like doors open and close every day,” Kekai Makepa-Kapahu said. “And it felt like an open door. So I took the opportunity. »

Makepa-Kapahu sits in a classroom with other Waianae residents. For the past few weeks, they have taken a construction course at the Makaha Learning Center.

“We can provide certifications for people looking to get into the craft trades,” said center president Danielle Irwin.

The center was created in the valley about ten years ago. Today, the primary mission is to help Native Hawaiians and residents of the Waianae Coast through business training in construction and solar energy.

Makepa-Kapahu said it has been invaluable for her future projects.

“I’m staying at a homeless encampment, Puuhonua o Waianae, which is next to the marina,” Mkepa-Kapahu said. “I’ve lived there for about 11 years now, so most of my life. And I’ve come to realize that a lot of people there are very strongly stereotyped.

He said that this part of his life is just one chapter and this education will help him finish it.

“I’m so motivated to leave high school and join the workforce because of my single mom,” he said. “All I want is to just love her, support her and help her do what I can for her.”

Before the pandemic, Hawaii’s college attendance rate for public school students was 55%, according to Hawaii P-20.

In 2021, it is down to 51%.

In some communities, these numbers are much lower.

Waianae High School’s college attendance rate was 36% before the pandemic. Now it’s only 28%.

“We offer alternative learning paths because your college isn’t for everyone, as we’ve learned over the past two decades,” Irwin said.

“I just thought it was a good opportunity for me to start my life after high school,” said Deizel Vistante, who is also entering her senior year.

He said learning a trade is easier than going to school.

“I just want to show my family that I can do it on my own, or people who doubted me can do it on my own,” Vistante said. “And a lot of people say I don’t have things working for me, but I do.”

And now they have the tools to make it happen.

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