Recent McKinley High School graduate Joann Shin, at work filing in the Honolulu Community College Apprenticeship Office, is already at the level of a college sophomore because of Running Start. The University of Hawaii program allows qualified high school students to earn college credits.

UH gives students
head start on college

High schoolers earn college credits
in the Running Start program

Joann Shin just graduated from McKinley High School this summer, but she's already at the level of a college sophomore.

Shin's ahead of her classmates by more than a year with 38 college credits -- and a 4.0 grade point average to boot -- while working two jobs at the age of 18.

How does she do it all?

"Lots of caffeine," she said.

And from a Running Start, the University of Hawaii program designed to allow qualified juniors and seniors to earn college credits while still in high school.


Shin missed her prom, pep rallies and graduation ceremony but doesn't regret sacrificing her senior year of high school to attend Honolulu Community College full time.

"Ever since I came to HCC, I seen myself grow so much," said Shin, who works over 30 hours a week as a cashier at Home Depot and a student assistant at HCC. "I just didn't feel a part of that (high school) anymore. I went past that phase and I don't think I could go back."

Walking onto the HCC campus was walking into a different world of freedom and new challenges for her, she said.

Shin got an exemption from her high school principal to go to HCC full time to earn dual credits for college and high school.

Under Running Start, students are allowed to take a maximum of six credits, or about two courses, a semester while still attending high school full time.

"I'm impressed at their sense of maturity that they will take on this kind of task," said Kathy Jaycox, coordinator of Running Start and interim executive director of the Hawaii P-20 Initiative at UH.

Running Start began in 2000. What started as a pilot between six Honolulu high schools and HCC grew to a statewide program in spring 2002, with more students applying each semester.

Students first take a placement exam at the college in which they must show that they qualify for basic English and math at a college level. If they qualify, they must get approval from their high school counselor, principal and guardian.

There's a list of 23 courses, mostly introductory general education requirements, so the credits can be transferred to all 10 campuses in the UH system and most mainland universities. Jaycox said 30 more courses will be added to the list for spring 2005.

Students have completed 89 percent of the enrolled credits since 2002. There has also been a steady increase of students enrolling in the program, with a 92 percent jump from 2002 to 2003.

The bulk of the students go to UH community colleges because of the cheaper tuition, Jaycox said, with most attending Honolulu Community College.

The program doesn't require extra funding by the state, but requires time from counselors who help students throughout the program. Some counselors say it's worth it.

"It's a win-win situation," said Sharon Rota, a Kapiolani Community College counselor who coordinates Running Start. "Students like it because they're ready. They can handle the speed and the intensity of college."

Counselors don't notify the professors that the students are a part of the program until grades are submitted, to ensure they are treated like any other student, Jaycox said. Some Running Start students have made a "very positive impression on the college faculty," she said.

"We've had a lot of very positive feedback," she said. "It's a good way for students to find out, while they're still in high school, a very realistic sense what it takes to succeed in a college-level course."

Cynthia Kunimura, McKinley post-high school counselor, said at the beginning of the program, she would hold informational meetings to get students to join. Now, the meetings are jammed with enthusiastic students.

"I'm a huge advocate for kids going through Running Start," Kunimura said. "I've seen many successes and I can foretell that it's going to grow."

Kunimura said she warns students that the program isn't for everyone. She said she's seen the brightest student fail in Running Start, as well as an average student who succeeded in the classes.

"It's awesome," said Shin, who is trying to persuade her brother in high school to participate in the program. "It truly did work out for me ... and for some people, it can really do wonders for you."

Shin will be taking eight courses at three community colleges next semester, but hopes to transfer to the Manoa campus for spring 2005, where she will go into premed or pharmacy.

"Everyone at HCC thought I was one of them," Shin said. "And I eventually did become one of them."



E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --