Homeless preschool program earns national accreditation

By Paula Akana
Published On: Apr 18 2013 07:25:40 PM HST

The Ka Pa'alana Homeless Family Education Program in Hawaii is the only homeless preschool program in the nation. They have earned national accreditation for a program thatdoes more than grow learners; its grows families.

KAPOLEI, Hawaii -

When you are homeless and on the beach, the last thing on your mind is preschool for your kids.  Partners In Development has brought learning to those without homes with Ka Pa'alana.

The Ka Pa'alana Homeless Family Education Program is the only homeless preschool program in the nation.

It operates at several shelters, public housing projects and on two beaches.

It has earned national accreditation for a program that does more than grow learners -- it grows families.

"It's so important to get the young learners ready for school, but we also prepare the families and parents for that transition to school as well," said Program Manager Daniel Goya.  "So, we do a lot of parent and adult education that prepares the family for school success, not just the child."

"It was awesome.  How can I explain it?  You just feel welcomed," said Cheryl-Lee Kekumu.  "I honestly couldn't wait to wake up to go to preschool."

Once homeless and on the beach, Kekumu entered the program with her child and she enjoyed it enough that she now works for Ka Pa'alana and is now in college getting her teaching degree.

"I just made five years with Ka Pa'alana.  I started as a teacher assistant and for the past two years became a teacher.  I love it," said Kekumu.

She is excited with the accreditation and hopes they can reach even more families.  It's a feeling of ha'aheo, or pride, throughout the program.

"There's just a lot of ha'ahelo with our families because what others of wealth may have, they have too.  There are not many NAEYC accredited preschools in our state and our families are definitely proud they have one of them right here," said Kekumu.

Only about 8 percent of the preschools and early childhood programs in this country are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

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