The Clarence T.C. Ching PUEO Program, now in its 17th year, is one of Punahou’s most durable ongoing programs addressing the public purpose of an independent school. A partnership between Punahou and the Hawai‘i State Department of Education (DOE), Partnerships in Unlimited Educational Opportunities (PUEO) was founded in 2005 by Carl Ackerman, who was succeeded as director of the program in 2019 by Kehau Kealoha-Scullion ’80.
PUEO works with approximately 320 public school students from 94 public, charter and independent schools who demonstrate academic potential but limited economic opportunity. The goal of PUEO is to engage with students who may not have been college-bound and instill the skills, confidence and resilience that will enable them to thrive in school, and be college ready. Students enter as rising sixth grade students and attend summer sessions at Punahou for seven years. PUEO Director Kealoha-Scullion has called PUEO, “equity in motion.”
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, PUEO pivoted to distance learning. Despite the virtual format, students achieved close to 92% average attendance, and three new courses were added, adapted to distance learning: a financial literacy course for rising sophomores that was developed with the Hawai‘i State Department of Education (DOE); a forensic science and math session piloted with rising eighth graders to reinforce math skills with inquiry-based learning; and a performing arts elective, with a focus on improvisation to promote self-awareness, growth, self-management and collaboration.
Hallmarks of PUEO’s longevity and resilience have been: strong partnerships with community organizations; talented and loyal faculty from both public and private schools; individualized attention to teaching and learning in an age-appropriate and practical curriculum; a real world approach to academic skills development and the college application process; incorporation of Hawaiian culture in a values-based curriculum which emphasizes self-respect, empathy and social responsibility; and continuity from year to year which forges strong bonds of identity and friendship within each PUEO class.
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