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Stephanie Carroll, left, is earning her Associate of Science degree in the Early Childhood Education program. In this photo, she works with Bogdan Simonov in the toddler classroom at the Hawai‘i CC Children’s Center. The Children’s Center allows students like Carroll to gain real-world experience as part of their studies.

Early Childhood Education Program Expands to Two Local High Schools

Hawai‘i Community College is offering a new opportunity for high school students to pursue college credentials and careers in the field of Early Childhood Education.

The new program is called the “Hilo Early Learning Career Pathway Project.” It will allow students at Hilo and Waiakea High Schools to earn a Certificate of Competence from Hawai‘i CC’s Early Childhood Education program while they are still in high school.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for high school students interested in the field of Early Childhood Education,” said Janet Smith, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education. “The classes will be free, and the program includes a paid internship for eligible seniors that provides valuable real-world experience and helps bolster the local early childhood workforce.”

>>>See PDF of Article from Hawaii Tribune-Herald

The initiative — which is a partnership between Friends of the Future, Kamehameha Schools, the Hawai‘i Department of Education, and Hawai‘i CC — comes amid a national and statewide push to expand pre-kindergarten and make childcare more affordable. In the U.S. House of Representatives, the House Committee on Education and Labor recently proposed spending roughly $450 million to lower the cost of child care and secure universal pre-K for three- and four-year-olds. In addition, the State of Hawai‘i has been working to expand public pre-K through legislative and executive action. 

A critical part of expanding early education will be an educated, credentialed workforce, and that’s what the Hilo Early Learning Career Pathway Project is designed to support.

“Research shows how important early learning is for the success of our keiki,” said Brenda Watanabe, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education. “We are pleased to be launching this program to help increase the early childhood workforce for a much-needed, essential service.” 

High school students who enroll would take three Early Childhood Education classes totaling nine credits, qualifying them for a Certificate of Competence from Hawai‘i CC. Students who want to continue their education can apply these credits towards an Associate of Science degree from Hawai‘i CC’s Early Childhood Education program. 

The program also allows participants to earn a national Childcare Development Associate (CDA) credential.

The project has received $220,000 in grant funding. Hawai‘i CC has hired a coordinator, Tonya Baybayan, to work with all of the partners to recruit and assist students in the high schools and help them navigate the college process. In the last semester, eligible seniors can participate in a paid internship. 

Hawai‘i CC is recruiting students this fall and will deliver the classes starting in the Spring 2022 semester. Those interested in the program should contact their college and career counselors.