Waipahu High School Early College Director Dr. Mark Silliman retired in December 2020, and in his place is now Dr. Garyn Tsuru. Silliman founded Waipahu High School’s Early College program in 2012 with help of Dr. Tsuru, who considers himself “fortunate to be one of [Silliman’s] mentees for the past 10 years.”
Tsuru says, “Dr. Mark Silliman was the architect of Early College in Hawaii, and has created countless educational opportunities for many of Hawaii’s youths.” Silliman not only started the Early College program at Waipahu High School, but also started the first Olympian program in Hawaii, which allows high school students to earn their associate’s degree before graduating high school. Silliman also started the first high school Phi Theta Kappa chapter. Phi Theta Kappa is a college honor society for open-access institutions.
This leaves Tsuru with “big shoes to fill;” however, he enjoys carrying on Silliman’s legacy in the Waipahu High School community full of “inspiring leadership, knowledgeable faculty and staff, and outstanding students. The school has the warmth of a family who wants each and every member to succeed.”
Before beginning this role, Tsuru was a professor of psychology and later became the director of University of Hawaii West Oahu’s Early College Program. He is also a licensed clinical psychologist.
However, this year was not an easy year for Tsuru to start due to COVID-19. In the Early College program, things had to change, such as having all of the classes online. Tsuru says, “While there is no doubt the virus has wrought misery and despair over the last year, some of its more deleterious effects are only now beginning to rear its ugly head. We need to prepare for budget deficits and be flexible in the delivery of education.”
Despite these difficulties, Tsuru continues to persevere to help Early College grow. In the future, he hopes to expand Waipahu’s Early College program to support similar programs elsewhere. He says, “I hope Waipahu High School can expand its scope and replicate its high quality programming at other high schools. That way we can see a future that goes beyond higher education as the ‘end goal,’ and begin to see it as education for all.”