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Monday, July 10, 2000

By Michael Moser, Special to the Star-Bulletin
Upward Bound students Nolen Billy, left, and Kiaru Esahu,
center, assist a Polynesian Voyaging Society volunteer with
Hokulea's mast lines Saturday morning.

Upward Bound,
and sailing toward
a college education

44 high school students
climb aboard Hokule'a for
some lessons in life

By Leila Fujimori


Chad Noble-Tabiolo beamed as he steered the Hokule'a in the waters off Honolulu yesterday, gripping the sweep, which resembles a giant canoe paddle.

Sailing on the traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe with master navigator Nainoa Thompson is just part of a program to help underprivileged youth. In this case, it may steer the Farrington High School junior toward a college education, something no one in his family has accomplished.

"I want to be the first in my family to become a doctor," said the 15-year-old, who wants to be a pediatrician.

Noble-Tabiolo was among 44 high school students from Hawaii, the West Coast, Guam, Saipan, Chuuk, Samoa and other Pacific islands to sail Saturday and yesterday, participating in Upward Bound, a pre-college program.

The federally funded program aids students from low-income families who would be the first generation to go to college.

On the canoe, Hokule'a's crew members, many not much older than the students, taught the fundamentals of traditional navigation and sailing techniques.

They shared their first-hand experiences of voyaging, telling the students of life aboard the canoe.

The teens took turns manning the sheet lines to open and close the sails with the winds whipping and steering as the canoe cut through the water.

Sailing "instills confidence and a sense of accomplishment and pride" in the students, said Michael Moser, director of Upward Bound's math-science college preparatory program.

Thompson and the Polynesian Voyaging Society, having shifted their focus to education, embrace programs like Upward Bound. "The Hokule'a's whole focus is in translating 25 years of sailing ... to the children of Hawaii," he said.

Thompson said broadening students' experience beyond academic excellence to a deeper, cultural learning is important.

He also used the opportunity to train his young crew to teach and take on leadership roles.

The students are also getting a taste of college life this summer by taking classes at Leeward Community College and living at the University of Hawaii at Manoa's dormitories for six weeks.

Success can be measured by the 95 percent rate of the program's graduates enrolling in college, many of whom earn scholarships.

For Brian Rambonga, 16, the Hokule'a, a traditional instrument to get to a destination, symbolizes something personal: "Getting to my goals."

The program "helped to encourage me to pursue my dreams even more," he said.

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