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West // West Oahu Coverstory
Christina O’Connor

School Accredited For Homeless Kids

Students at Hope Preschool and their families gathered last month at the Kapolei campus to celebrate the school’s accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

While the achievement is a mark of excellence for any early education program, Hope Preschool set a record with its accreditation as the first preschool of its kind (serving homeless children) in the nation to earn the designation.

Hope Preschool is one component of the Ka Pa’alana Homeless Family Education Program. It’s part of the Partners in Development Foundation (PIDF), a nonprofit that addresses the needs of at-risk communities, with a particular focus on Native Hawaiians. Its programs include environmental stew-ardship, social services and preservation of Hawaiian culture. Ka Pa’alana is one of a range of educational services that also offer family education and a STEM curriculum.

“We’re proud to have earned the mark of quality from NAEYC, and to be recognized for our commitment to reaching the highest professional standards,” president and CEO of PIDF Jan E. Hanohano Dill stated. “NAEYC accreditation lets families in our community know that children in our program are getting the best care and early learning experiences possible.”

PIDF created Ka Pa’alana in 2007 following reports about the growing number of homeless families in West Oahu. According to a statement from former governor Linda Lingle, 3,190 homeless individuals received services from the state in May of that year on the Leeward Coast alone, and 1,270 of those were children.

Hope Preschool currently serves 35 students, working with keiki from birth to age 5 in transitional and emergency shelters. It also aims to get the entire family involved in the child’s education, offering parent-child activities and leading adult education classes.

“We realized that there were more needs for the families,” said Ka Pa’alana program director Danny Goya. “We needed to not only prepare the children for early education, but we needed to prepare the adults for the workforce, as well as preparing them to be parents, and be their child’s first and foremost influential educator.”

In addition to running a preschool, Ka Pa’alana travels to area beaches to reach out to homeless communities, providing food and clothing, as well as helping families move into shelters.

Reaching out to the entire family has been one of the favorite parts of Goya’s job.

“The accreditation is all good – it’s cool; but I think watching the parents get involved has been the blessing,” he said.

Seven parents of former Hope Preschool students are now employed as teachers and teaching assistants. Six of them are working to become preschool teachers, and one wants to be a social worker.

“With the blessings they have received, they want to pay it forward,” Goya explained.

PIDF is in the process of creating a way to encouraging fathers to take a more active role in their child’s life. In the future, it also hopes to restart a youth education program, which was closed after budget cuts.

For more information, visit pidfoundation.org.

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