Sunday, June 2, 2002

The graduating seniors of Hale O Ulu, an alternative learning center run by Child and Family Service for students struggling with academic, emotional or family issues, celebrated Thursday at Tree Tops Restaurant at Paradise Park.

Hale O Ulu reaps
crop of students

The alternative school helps
teenagers in trouble reach
their graduation goal

By Lisa Asato

Chad Cabanban did not think he would graduate from high school, but this year, he makes his "biggest dream" come true -- twice.

On Thursday, Cabanban celebrated his first graduation with 15 others who made the grade at Hale O Ulu, an alternative school for students struggling with academic, emotional or family issues.

His second graduation comes Saturday, when the 18-year-old marches with the rest of the senior class at Campbell High School, his home school.

"I accomplished something I really wanted to do," Cabanban said. "My biggest dream was to graduate from high school."

At Hale O Ulu, he said, he was able to learn at his own pace and get one-on-one help from teachers. "I was failing at Campbell, I wasn't making any progress at Campbell, and Hale O Ulu motivated me to do my work, get it done, graduate, make something of your life," he said.

"They'll keep pushing you and pushing you," he added. "If you don't show up one day, they'll make sure your family knows it."

Principal Ann Kawahara said graduation for students at Hale O Ulu is a big accomplishment because students come to the school "behind in the game (and) worked their way up."

She said students are referred to the Ewa school by Family Court probation officers or school counselors and principals for problems including truancy, failing grades, criminal behavior or family dysfunction.

"It just varies greatly, but something is moving the student off track," she said. "But generally each student has some goodness. You just have to find it and work with them and what motivates them. All my students have good intentions, good hearts. We just have to work a little harder with some of them."

Hale O Ulu serves about 120 students a year, mostly from the Leeward District, from seventh to 12th grade. The school is continuously accepting students and mainstreaming others back into public schools. The program, run by Child and Family Service, is funded primarily through contracts with the state Department of Education and Family Court. It also receives funds from Aloha United Way and private entities.

Cabanban, who works as a shift manager at Pizza Hut in Ewa, said his plans are to be promoted to restaurant manager and "hopefully go to college after this."

He said there should be more schools like Hale O Ulu and hoped everyone would help raise money for the school because "to me, that was like the only school that actually cared about whether we graduated or not."

Kawahara said the school has now graduated 131 students since its first graduating class in 1985.

"Hale O Ulu translates into 'House of Growth,' " she said. "So we like to say that students come to us, we plant a seed, nurture it, help it along a little bit and watch it grow."

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