By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Alyssa Yamanouchi, holding microphone and, front to back,
CaryAnne Uhlir, Trent Richardson and Travis Siu at work.

Students learning
keys to work world

School-to-work academies
prepare kids for adulthood

By Debra Barayuga

Alyssa Yamanouchi wants to become a morning anchor on a local television station.

Through Waialua Elementary's media academy, the 10-year-old who anchors the school's morning broadcast once or twice a week is learning how to write persuasively, operate technical equipment, work cooperatively in a group and understand the importance of showing up at the studio on time.

The academy is one of many school-to-work initiatives at Hawaii schools. Through the federal School-to-Work Opportunities Act signed by President Clinton in 1994, states can apply for funds to develop and implement school-to-work partnerships that prepare students for postsecondary education or employment.

An estimated 1,000 educators, business, community and government leaders are expected to attend the second school-to-work conference Tuesday and Wednesday at the Sheraton-Waikiki.

Most schools in the state have developed or are in the process of creating partnerships with higher education, business, labor and the community and applied for grants this year. Hawaii is projected to receive $10.2 million over a five-year period.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Siu works the camera during a practice session for the
daily live broadcast at Waialua Elementary.

Technology helps program

Waialua and many Hawaii schools for years have been doing work-oriented activities now being touted as school-to-work. Internships, mentorships, career shadowing, vocational education and technical preparation all focus on hands-on or on-the-job learning.

Academies have been started in high schools that address career paths in health, finance, travel, business and agriculture technology, with many more in the works.

School-to-work systems that benefit students from kindergarten to college are even more compelling now because of technology, said Dr. Herbert Randall, executive director of Hawaii's School-to-Work program.

Results of a survey conducted by state Board of Education member Lex Brodie show 92 percent of 250 business owners and managers felt today's public school graduates are unprepared for the job market.

Kids more interested

Ninety-eight percent felt social skills, good behavior and getting along with others are essential.

"We've reached a point where we can no longer afford to be doing what we've been doing," Brodie said. "We have to become more productive, efficient and effective."

School-to-work opportunities should be offered as early as possible, Brodie said. "If we don't do it, poor decisions will be made and you'll have people jumping from job to job to job."

Telling students to learn math and complete projects on time because it will help them in the future doesn't provide enough motivation.

Waialua Principal Sharon Nakagawa said: "It doesn't put children in an authentic setting so they understand what the world of work is about."

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Yamanouchi, left, and Uhlir, right, rehearse
a broadcast while Siu, 11, runs the camera.

Rather than sending their students into the workplace, Waialua teachers created workplaces at the school. Students can choose from among 13 different academies ranging from music and drama to hydroponics.

All students are encouraged to become risk takers, problem solvers, good listeners and communicators.

They learn what it means to work cooperatively, to be responsible, and to apply what they're learning in reading, math and social studies into their academy, said Aimee Kimura, Waialua's school-to-work coordinator.

For many students, school was "ho-hum" until the academies were developed.

Kimura said: "Now, they're not just absorbing information, they get to create and use it."

Learning about preparation

Student entrepreneurs in Lori Lendio's Kid Co. -- a computer design company -- learned a valuable lesson when they tried to apply for a loan and were turned away by the principal because they were late for their appointment and did not have a business plan.

The students rescheduled their appointment and returned better prepared. "So often you hear how adults don't understand how critical this is," Nakagawa said.

They arrived on time, brought along a plan and knew exactly what they wanted.

They also offered to put their classroom computer up for collateral, said student Jamie Shimahara, president of Kid Co.

Among the valuable lessons students have learned are telephone skills.

"They're confident in picking up the phone and talking to adults," Lendio said. They're also learning to become sharp consumers -- understanding what the public wants and filling those needs. "The kids are better business people than most adults are," Lendio said.

Senior James Esteban learned technical computer skills through the communications technology academy at Leilehua High. He's produced slide shows, brochures and business cards.

Intimidated by computers before he joined the academy, he now wants to become a graphics designer and maybe own his own company some day. But he realizes now it will take additional schooling to reach his goals.

"We're trying to remove the stereotype that school-to-work is vocation-oriented and only for students who are not pursuing college," said Cynthia Elia, vocational education coordinator at Leilehua.

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