A Decade of Success: The KCC STEM Summer Bridge Program

For the past ten years, the Kapi‘olani Community College Summer Bridge Program has been helping students with their transition into college. It began in 2005 with a grant from the National Science Foundation and the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program. The aim of this grant was to increase the number of indigenous and underrepresented students in the STEM majors. The first KCC STEM Summer Bridge hosted 23 participants from 16 O‘ahu high schools. This year, 71 students from across the state benefitted from this program.

KCC STEM Outreach Coordinator Keolani “Aunty” Noa has been there from the beginning. She says that, “Summer Bridge is the foundation, the piko – the start – the root of ‘I can, I will, and I am.’ It builds the confidence to find a place and a purpose in college.”  Bridge participants are awarded a full scholarship that covers math course tuition, books, materials and lunch. The program has two tracks: HāKilo (biology, ecology, ocean chemistry) and ‘IKE (engineering) that feature field related project based learning.  Looking at this year’s class of A.S.N.S. Degree graduates, the majority of them got their start in Summer Bridge. A few are truly “miracle” students who had no intention of pursuing a college degree before participating in this program.

None of this would have been possible without all of the Kapi‘olani CC Faculty members who lent their expertise. Austin Anderson (Math), Justin Carland (Engineering), Porscha Dela Fuente (English), Alan Garcia (Microbiology), Aaron Hanai (Engineering), Justin Kong (Math), Wendy Kuntz (Biology), MacKenzie Manning (Biology), Kathleen Ogata (Chemistry), Dennis Perusse (Math), Mike Ross (Botany) and Jacob Tyler (Engineering).

‘IKE student Jack Faatiliga was very appreciative of all the support he received: “The mentors and the faculty really helped us and you felt like they actually wanted to be there. Dennis, (Professor Perusse) sacrificed a lot of his time just to ake sure that not only did we get our work done but that we understood what we were doing.”

HāKilo 1 Participant Jennifer Stockwell said, “I was able to meet new people and make new friends because of the program. It also taught me how to take initiative and become more independent by managing my own time during the math portion.”

It takes a lot of effort to ensure the success of such an ambitious program. After many late nights and long hours, Mrs. Noa remains positive. “My vision is that one day these underrepresented students will become decision makers in the workforce.”