The evolution of learning at Hoola Leadership Academy

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Thank a Teacher During Teacher Week and You Could Win a $100 Visa Gift Card to Give Your Favorite Educator
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From May 4 — 8, 2015, NEA Member Benefits will feature special deals, discounts, and giveaways—designed exclusively for NEA members. It’s their way of saying #ThankATeacher

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The evolution of learning at Hoola Leadership Academy
Program has a 90% graduation rate; based out of Kapolei High

Teachers redefining learning

Click here to watch Ashley Moser’s report.

Joan Lewis Interview

HONOLULU —A program aimed at preventing students from dropping out of high school is thriving at Kapolei High. It’s called the Ho’ola Leadership Academy and it is drastically improving graduation rates.

A traditional chalkboard is hard to come by here at Ho’ola. That’s because instructors believe teaching is evolving.

“For every child they have got to be able to find their own place because what they will excel in may not be necessarily with the traditional look of success is,” said Ho’ola founder Joan Lewis.

The program is aimed at catering to each student’s learning preferences by offering opportunities inside and out of the classroom. Each year, 200 students—50 in each grade from 9th through 12th—attend the academy which is still considered part of Kapolei High School. They are selected through an application process and the student must be in Kapolei High’s district.

Joan Lewis Garden

The program gets no extra funding and no special treatment. It is completely run by a group of teachers who wanted to see a change.

“It’s personal. It’s personal for the adults that are in it. It’s personal for the kids that are in it. And I think that’s the way that anyone will move if they are going to make programs that will work,” said Lewis.

It works for student Jordan. This is her fourth year in the program and says without it, she’d be lost in a sea of thousands of high schoolers.

“You’re not just sitting in a classroom all day doing the book work,” said senior Jordan Swendt. “It’s really fun.”

Students are split up by grades but some activities require them to join forces. In the Lo’i patch, it’s all about teamwork.

“I grew to love it. Now I have knowledge on how to live off the land and how to be sustainable if anything was to happen to the environment,” said junior Breana Duenas.

The program has a 90 percent graduation rate which students attribute to their passionate teachers.

Joan Lewis Classroom

“They do everything they can to help you. They jump hurdles to help you. I think they are the best thing that could have happened to me in my life,” said Swendt.

The Ho’ola Academy has been so successful that Kohala High School is modeling its own alternative education program after it. This year, the academy will see its seventh graduating class.