By: Tatum Kauka, Academic Coach at Nā Hokua and UH Mānoa Graduate Student
Nā Hokua is a University of Hawai’i, College of Education project which aims to support Native Hawaiian students in developing skills and knowledge to explore and succeed in postsecondary education within Science, Tech, Engineering, ‘Āina, and Mathematics (STEM) pathways and careers. Nā Hokua has recently partnered with Ho’okua’āina, working towards the shared goal of supporting post-secondary students passionate about STE’ĀM fields. This new partnership focuses on sharing resources and support with students participating in the Ahupua’a Systems Apprenticeship program.
Reflecting on my first few months with Ho’okua’āina, I realize I am continuously playing the roles of an academic coach and a student. My work with the ASA students has ranged greatly based on students’ individual needs. Similarly to my previous work alongside Nā Hokua students, we focused on (1) building pilina including genuine connections to one another, (2) strengthening students’ sense of purpose, (3) developing pono practices meaning figuring out how to balance their intricate lives, (4) taking part in kuleana by giving back to the communities around them, and (5) strengthening students’ communication and academic skills.
Thinking more deeply about my day-to-day experiences with the ASA students, there were many key insights I’ve gained to improve my future work with Ho’okua’āina. For example, I realized working in the lo’i and hosting mini-group workshops with the entire group facilitated close connections and impactful conversations. One of the greatest difficulties I had so far was reaching and meeting with students. After reflecting with my team, I found that open communication and being flexible with individual student needs helped build trust. By allowing students to select their preference for meeting times and locations, we were able to connect on a much higher level and talk more openly about strengths and weaknesses. Oftentimes, we met at Windward Community College and over Zoom. Our conversations often focused on their current lifestyles, the balance between work and school, and how they can become better students, people, and leaders. We also practiced presentation and writing skills and connected students with WCC academic services. A key point I’d like to make is that as a graduate student in the UH System, I could better connect and relate with their academic and personal experiences.
Some improvements that I hope to make for myself and future academic coaches moving forward are setting clear expectations and boundaries, and understanding the importance of flexibility for meetings and conversations early on. These improvements will clarify the role of academic coaches and help students set expectations for themselves and prioritize meetings.
Overall, and as stated above, I truly enjoyed this first session with ASA and am looking forward to continuing on and making additional positive impacts on students’ lives.