Above: PUEO Scholars removed invasive algae from Maunalua Bay as part of their seventh grade Marine Biology class.
The Clarence T.C. Ching Partnerships in Unlimited Educational Opportunities Program (PUEO) celebrated another successful summer session – and welcomed its inaugural cohort of fifth graders.
Established in 2005 through a partnership between Punahou School and the Hawai‘i State Department of Education (HIDOE), under the leadership of former Punahou President Jim Scott ’70 and founding PUEO Director Carl Ackerman, PUEO addresses the learning disruptions impacting underserved youth during the summer months.
Previously open by nomination to students from more than 60 partner schools in sixth grade and above, PUEO expanded this year to include fifth grade scholars for the first time, and has plans in place to include fourth graders next year, according to program director Kehau Kealoha-Scullion ’80.
PUEO now supports scholars through nine years of mentoring, social support and an innovative curriculum. In 19 years, the program has touched the lives of more than 470 graduates.
Aimed at students in the middle 60% of their HIDOE class who are eligible for the free and reduced lunch program, summer 2023 reinforced an additional focus on students who have the potential to be the first in their families to attend college. This eligibility criterion parallels Punahou’s interest in supporting greater first-generation college student enrollment and completion.
PUEO Scholars, including the program’s inaugural cohort of fifth graders, participated in classes that sparked creativity, enhanced understanding of Hawaiian culture and fostered environmental stewardship – offering a well-rounded learning experience that was enjoyed by all.
This summer’s new fifth grade program offered classes that sparked creativity, enhanced understanding of Hawaiian culture and fostered environmental stewardship, offering a well-rounded learning experience. The new Hawaiian Studies and Outdoor Education explorations provided exciting opportunities for the scholars. They experienced “Paniolo & Pa‘u Day,” exploring cowboy traditions and pa‘u riding. Students also connected with nature through leaf stamping and planting ‘a‘ali‘i seeds at Pu‘uomānoa.
Sixth and seventh graders enjoyed the second summer of an innovative ‘Ukulele/Creative Writing, featuring several guest artists. The return of off-campus excursions after program limitations during the pandemic, provided opportunities for Marine Biology shore visits and an expedition to the Legislature for Participation in Democracy. A new performing arts offering for eighth graders complemented the traditional theatre option for juniors.
The introduction of a breakfast program was universally popular for all scholars, made possible for the first time since PUEO’s inception. And scholars and kumu bonded through the shared experience of Oli Mondays gathering at the Lily Pond and Open Mike Fridays during lunch. The summer was filled with many highlights.
“We celebrate the many ways you have adapted, learned from each challenge and persevered together – united as PUEO,” said Kealoha-Scullion during the program’s farewell assembly in July. “Continue to teach the world how to move through zip codes and neighborhood boundaries, reframing one’s geographic and cultural identity as a source of strength to achievement. I am so proud of you.”
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