Photograph of a large compass installed in a lawn ringed by university buildings. Photograph of an adult and elementary-school children in front of a one-story building. The front façade of the building is painted with a mural, with the profiles of two people’s faces set within tropical vegetation. Photograph of three two-story residential buildings with a connecting lawn and concrete walkway. Photograph of three men and two women in casual dress standing in the lawn in front of a two-story residential building. Photograph of a class room in which college students help two groups of elementary-school children with their school work. Photograph of faculty and students, some wearing gold medals, in a school classroom.

 

Home >Case Studies >The Pride of Pālolo: ‘Ohana Learning Center at Pālolo Homes

 

The Pride of Pālolo: ‘Ohana Learning Center at Pālolo Homes

 

In 2008, residents of Pālolo Homes, a 306-unit affordable housing development in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, partnered with faculty from Kapi‘olani Community College (KCC), University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa (UH Mānoa), and Chaminade University to create a state-of-the-art learning center. Thanks in part to a 2007 Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian Institutions Assisting Communities grant from HUD’s Office of University Partnerships (OUP), a dilapidated administrative building was transformed into the ‘Ohana Learning Center, which offers residents access to tutoring, digital technology, and classes in healthy cooking, as well as a public health nursing station. These initiatives have not only dramatically improved Pālolo tenants’ educational achievement but have also furthered interethnic dialogue among the tenants, who include Native Hawaiians as well as recent immigrants from Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and other Pacific Islands.

Source:

Interview with Ulla Hasager, 2 June 2014; Interview with Dahlia Asuega, 27 June 2014; NeighborWorks America. n.d. “Mutual Housing Association of Hawaii.” Accessed 1 July 2014; Mutual Housing Association of Hawai‘i. 2013. “Palolo Homes.” Accessed 1 July 2014; Judith Kirkpatrick and Ulla Hasager. 2013. “Partnerships for Learning and Community at Pālolo Valley Homes,” Diversity & Democracy 16:1; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research, Office of University Partnerships. 2011. Collaborating for Change: Partnerships to Transform Local Communities, Volume 2; NeighborWorks America. 2011. “HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan Hails Property Owned by Hawaii NeighborWorks Affiliate as Model for the Nation,” News Blog, 31 August. For details about the renovation, see Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawai‘i. 2001. Final Environmental Assessment: Palolo Valley Homes Renovation; Mutual Housing Association of Hawai`i. 2011. “Pride of Palolo,” YouTube website.

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Creating Opportunities for Children and Adults

Dahlia Asuega, then the head of the tenants association at Pālolo Homes, joined with other residents and Hawai‘i Governor Benjamin Cayetano to support the acquisition of Pālolo Homes from Hawai‘i’s public housing authority by Mutual Housing Association of Hawai‘i, a manager and developer of affordable rental housing. Mutual Housing privatized Pālolo Homes in 2002 and completed a gut renovation of the development the following year. The change in ownership was so successful that in 2011, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan declared Pālolo Homes a national model for the privatization of public housing. Asuega, who now works as the resident services manager for Mutual Housing, says the privatization effort was successful because the residents, Mutual Housing, and other community partners collaborated to make it happen. Residents are often overlooked during these transitions, Asuega says, but they play a particularly important role; they are “not the problem but the solution to improving the environment.”

Soon after Mutual Housing assumed ownership of Pālolo Homes, Asuega and faculty from KCC and UH Mānoa created a technology center in the development in response to residents’ requests. Working without a budget, Asuega and the faculty gathered about two dozen computers and furniture deaccessioned by KCC and other colleges. They installed the computers in a building at Pālolo they called “the Hale,” or “house” in Hawaiian, suggesting that it was more than just a destination for computer access.

The Hale also became the centerpiece of the Pālolo Pipeline Program, an educational program staffed by more than 300 service-learning students from KCC, UH Mānoa, and Chaminade University who mentor and tutor young people at Pālolo Homes as part of their coursework. “We were concerned that many of the kids of Pālolo were not reaching institutions of higher education [or] even graduating from high school,” says Ulla Hasager, an anthropologist at UH Mānoa who cofounded the pipeline program with Judith Kirkpatrick (then a professor at KCC) in 2002. The service-learning students provide help with homework, classes in literacy and mathematics, and workshops in dance and other enrichment activities; about 45 to 70 youth ranging from preschoolers to high school students attend on any given day. Kirkpatrick stresses that in addition to these activities, the Hale provided students with a safe, quiet place where they could focus on their schoolwork.

Within a few years of its opening, the Hale expanded to offer more educational opportunities for adults, too. In 2007, the schools secured an $800,000 grant from OUP to renovate a 5,850-square-foot administration building in the development to create the ‘Ohana Learning Center. Additional funds came from State Farm and NeighborWorks America for a total of $1.7 million; Oceanic Time Warner provided free wireless connectivity. Pālolo residents, faculty, and Mutual Housing worked together to complete the renovations, which included installing an elevator to make the second floor accessible, outfitting the center with new computers and a digital and audio editing suite, creating a training kitchen, and establishing a public health nursing station where residents can have blood pressure and vision checks, tuberculosis tests, and vaccinations. The ‘Ohana Learning Center has also attracted support from other civic and community activist groups, including AmeriCorps.

The Pālolo Pipeline Program has recently intensified its focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, in part with grants from the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. These funds have supported courses in food, sustainability, and climate change; a 3D printer and other equipment; and enrichment programs on Saturdays and during the summer. A Native Hawaiian engineering graduate student was funded to run the center for three years and to facilitate dialogue among the center’s many ethnic groups. An upcoming program will train college students and Pālolo Homes residents to prepare canoes for sailing and ocean navigation. Hasager explains that the program is meant to improve ethnic relations, particularly among Micronesians and Native Hawaiians, by providing tasks on which they can work together.

Source:

Housing and Development Corporation of Hawai‘i. n.d. Annual Report: July 1, 2001–June 30, 2002; City and County of Honolulu Neighborhood Commission Office. 2001. “Palolo Neighborhood Board: Minutes of Regular Meeting,” 14 November; Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawai‘i. 2001. Final Environmental Assessment: Palolo Valley Homes Renovation; Mutual Housing Association of Hawai`i. 2011. “Pride of Palolo,” YouTube website; Interview with Judith Kirkpatrick, 28 May 2014; Interview with Dahlia Ausega, 27 June 2014; NeighborWorks America. 2011. “HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan Hails Property Owned by Hawaii NeighborWorks Affiliate as Model for the Nation,” News Blog, 31 August.

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Source:

Interview with Judith Kirkpatrick, 28 May 2014; Judith Kirkpatrick and Ulla Hasager. 2013. “Partnerships for Learning and Community at Pālolo Valley Homes,” Diversity & Democracy 16:1; Interview with Dahlia Asuega, 27 June 2014.

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Source:

Interview with Robert Franco, 7 June 2014; Interview with Ulla Hasager, 2 June 2014; Chaminade University. 2013. “Pālolo Ohana Learning Center.” Accessed 1 July 2014; Interview with Judith Kirkpatrick, 28 May 2014; Email correspondence from Robert Franco, 20 June 2014.

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Source:

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research, Office of University Partnerships. 2011. Collaborating for Change: Partnerships to Transform Local Communities, Volume 2; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Planning and Development Research, Office of University Partnerships. n.d. “Grantee Database.” Accessed 1 July 2014; Interview with Robert Franco, 7 June 2014; Interview with Judith Kirkpatrick, 28 May 2014; Interview with Ulla Hasager, 2 June 2014.

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Service Learning

Over the past decade, the service learning components of the Pipeline program have paid off dramatically for Pālolo Elementary School students, 90 percent of whom live at Pālolo Homes. Average test scores among third graders rose from 18 to 81 in 2011, and fifth graders posted average gains of 71 points, to 77. The 2011 scores surpassed state averages, removing the school’s classification as a failing school according to the standards of the No Child Left Behind Act. Pālolo Elementary School principal Reid Kuba also praises the program for increasing students’ self-esteem and exposing them to positive role models. “Ten years ago, students would be walking with their heads down and wouldn’t address you even when spoken to. But with the Pālolo Pipeline Program, children say good morning to me, their heads are up, and they’re smiling.”

Pālolo Homes tenants have also made major gains in higher education, with 52 residents going to college, some with full scholarships. “That’s a big increase from zero,” says Hasager. Asuega adds, “The short-term grants and programs surface and they’re gone. The long-lasting partnerships between the colleges and [the] community — that’s what impacts people’s lives.”

The service-learning students benefit from the program as well. According to Robert Franco, director of the Office for Institutional Effectiveness at KCC, studies show that the college’s service learners post higher course success rates, have higher retention rates, and complete their degrees and transfer to four-year institutions faster than do peers who do not participate in service-learning programs. In these ways, the program also helps the college meet its institutional objectives. Beyond the practical benefits of service learning, however, Franco’s hope “is that this is learning that lasts — that [these students] take their commitment to these issues to their lives as citizens.”

Source:

Interview with Robert Franco, 7 June 2014; Interview with Ulla Hasager, 2 June 2014; Judith Kirkpatrick and Ulla Hasager. 2013. “Partnerships for Learning and Community at Pālolo Valley Homes,” Diversity & Democracy 16:1.

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Source:

Interview with Ulla Hasager, 2 June 2014; Interview with Reid Kuba, 2 June 2014; Interview with Robert Franco, 7 June 2014; Judith Kirkpatrick and Ulla Hasager. 2013. “Partnerships for Learning and Community at Pālolo Valley Homes,” Diversity & Democracy 16:1.

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Source:

Interview with Ulla Hasager, 2 June 2014; Interview with Dahlia Ausega, 27 June 2014.

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Source:

Interview with Robert Franco, 7 June 2014; Interview with Ulla Hasager, 2 June 2014; Robert Franco. 2010. “Spotlight on Service Learning: Engaging Students, Engaging Faculty, Engaging Communities,” presentation at “Communities and Universities: Making a Difference in Challenging Times,” U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of University Partnerships, 22 April.

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