Palama Settlement has launched a new endeavor called the Xcel Program, to provide students with the resources they need to be successful in their distance learning. Many students are struggling to attend class and complete their work now that school has moved online, due to a number of factors which may include not having access to a computer, not having access to wifi, not having a quiet space at home to focus on the class, or not having a home environment that provides enough guidance and support. Palama is hoping to address these needs by opening up the Henry & Colene Wong Computer Center and the Cecilia Blackfield Academic Center for small groups of middle and high school students. Both spaces have all the equipment students might need for class and allow for social distancing of six feet or more.
The seven students currently participating in the Xcel Program attend McKinley and St. Theresa. They are also Pakolea Program football players with Palama. Five of the seven students do not have access to a computer and none of the students have access to wifi at home. All were recruited to participate in the program through outreach to their families after the Hawaii Department of Education made the announcement that public schools would move fully online through October 2.
Recreation Director Pi`i Minns and Pakolea Program Manager Jeremiah Ostrowski (both also Pakolea coaches) oversee the Xcel Program. Palama’s Education Director Kim Corbin and Youth Specialist Sharlaine Hesira are also available for in-person and virtual tutoring when students need extra help with their work.
The staff has been actively encouraging students to participate in class and ask questions, after it was made clear multiple students were struggling with their assignments. The students are often too embarrassed to ask questions or seek help because they see it as a sign of weakness instead of a sign of strength. It was only after the coaches sat down with the youth to talk to them about the importance of keeping up with their academics that they began to ask more questions and make the effort to complete make up work.
The Xcel Program will continue until schools can safely resume in person.