Academies achieve National Model status

Flora Thompson

Waipahu High School’s five career academies have all attained Model Academy status from the National Career Academy Coalition (NCAC). Originally only two academies at Waipahu High School had this recognition, the Academy of Natural Resources and the Academy of Health & Sciences. Three more academies now join them: the Academy of Arts & Communication (A&C), the Academy of Industrial & Engineering Technology (IET), and the Academy of Professional and Public Services (APPS).

Everyone including administrators, faculty and Advisory Board members, and students collaborated to bring this recognition home to their academies. IET and APPS were each recognized as National Model Academies with Distinction.

Pete Pascua of the Wilson Okamoto Corporation, who is a Waipahu High School alum and IET Advisory Board member, says, “The NCAC Certification as a Model with Distinction Academy is the highest attainable certification rating and a prestigious achievement by the IET Academy. It is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and commitment from Waipahu High School’s administration, faculty and teachers, industry partners, parent representatives, and all involved with the academy, that guide and help the students achieve their educational and career goals and aspirations.”

APPS Assistant Principal Elizabeth Higashi and APPS Academy Director Ian Ferris reflect on the journey it took for APPS to achieve this distinction: “In the spring of 2016, plans were put into motion to combine two career pathways, Public and Human Services and Business, into one. From figuring out a new academy name to new teacher lines and on to creating mission and vision statements, there was a lot that we needed to work on. But through the hard work and dedication from all of our academy teachers, resource teachers, and administration, we were able to create a path to success for this new academy. We know we still have a lot of work ahead of us, but this certification is a great honor and a validation of the perseverance and hard work that got us to this point.”

The review process also required various interviews and documentation of the academies’ efforts and achievements. Academy students were interviewed to share the knowledge and experience that they gained from their academies.

A&C student Clarisa Wegesend says of the interview process, “When I got the first email asking me to represent my academy and pathway, I was shocked. It was such a big opportunity I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t help but think ‘Why am I getting this? What if I mess it up?’ Our academy has undergone so much growth and rebuilding, it’s been truly amazing. What was once just talks about accreditation in my freshman year finally came true. It was so nerve-wracking, but an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.

IET student Taylor Fukunaga adds, “I was super proud to see the outcome of all the hard work this academy put into its success of being nationally certified. Although the circumstances for our review were different than we’d imagined, I’m grateful to have been a part of the student panel to speak on all that the IET academy has offered to me and so many other students.”

While some may think that COVID-19 would make it harder for the academies to attain model status, APPS Advisory Board Chair and retired FBI agent Arnold Laanui says the opposite: “COVID-19 has served as a great accelerator. Changes expected to occur over the course of 10 years occurred in 6 months. As a result, the future for all students–from freshmen to seniors–has been dramatically altered. Thankfully, the academies of Waipahu High School have partnered with industry leaders who have an eye toward the future. Through these partnerships, our academies ensure students receive the most relevant skills so that they can thrive and find joy in their chosen careers. Our recent recognition signals the strength and quality of our campus.”

Principal Keith Hayashi celebrates the fact that Waipahu High School is now a “wall-to-wall” national model academy high school, being the first Hawaii high school and one of the few across the country to have all academies receive model status. Hayashi says, “To have achieved wall-to-wall national model certification for our academies by the NCAC validates the hard work and collective efforts of everyone at Waipahu High School, together with our industry and post-secondary partners, to prepare our students for Hawaii’s high skill, high wage, in-demand, and future-focused workforce. We’ve concentrated on seamlessly connecting our high school learning experiences and college dual credit offerings with industry internships and certifications, in an effort to collaboratively implement our student centered motto: My Voice, My Choice, My Future. Congratulations to all of our academies!”

Academy of Arts & Communication – 2020 National Model Academy

Academy of Professional and Public Services – 2020 National Model Academy with Distinction

Academy of Industrial & Engineering Technology – 2020 National Model Academy with Distinction