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LCC Awarded Grants For Program, Building Improvements

Native Hawaiian students and STEM programs are the beneficiaries of more than $13.6 million in grants awarded to Leeward Community College by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Title III funds have a two-pronged focus, with $3,647,951 going toward program improvements and $9,996,551 toward building renovations.

Leeward CC’s “E ‘Auamo Kakou: A Shared Commitment to Improving Student Outcomes” program will focus on helping Native Hawaiian students — who constitute 26 percent of Leeward CC’s student body — graduate on time.

“(The program) is aimed at developing ‘tracks’ for students so they can graduate in two years, as opposed to the average five years it often takes to get the two-year degree,” said vice chancellor Mike Pecsok.

The funds will help set up block scheduling for classes, provide $90,000 in scholarships and push $200,000 toward course redesign and promoting the use of Open Educational Resources, which are free online textbooks available for student use.

Training faculty to use these free resources will be invaluable to students, according to Pecsok.

“Textbooks are the second-largest expense people have going to college, other than tuition. A typical student may spend up to $1,000 a semester on textbooks.

“We can essentially get those same-quality textbooks to students for free,” he said.

On the renovation side, the community college has plans for three target areas: finishing Halau ‘Ike O Pu’uloa, the Native Hawaiian Student Success Center; building a science laboratory and student success center on its Waianae campus; and renovating six labs at its main campus in Pearl City.

While the envisioned Native Hawaiian center includes an expanded indigenous plants garden, amphitheater, imu pit, star compass and workshop area, the many science improvements also will have a big impact on Leeward CC students.

After all, Pecsok pointed out, STEM is a statewide initiative.

“(The goal is) to provide education for people who are going to go out and get living-wage jobs. Instead of having to work at lower-wage jobs or work at two or three jobs, they can get a better-paying job in a STEM field and earn a living wage,” he explained.