Windward Community College Launches Literacy Project

University of Hawaiʻi
Posted: Feb 14, 2001

HONOLULU-Windward Community College (WCC), a campus of the Universityof Hawai'i System, recently launched a new literacy project called GlobalEngagement of Multifaceted Stakeholders (GEMS). The GEMS program promotesservice-learning at community colleges and their partner universities, andprovides federal grants for outreach to ethnic minorities.

Last October, WCC, a campus with a 30 percent Native Hawaiian and Samoanstudent enrollment, received a grant of $42,000, renewable for two years.To serve a wider spectrum of the community, the college is partnering withthe University of Hawai'i at Manoa and Windward School District's KailuaComplex, which has a high concentration of Pacific Island students.

"Windward Community College is one of four pilot institutions inour country to pioneer a kindergarten through grade 16 comprehensive service-learningGEMS project," said Lorna Hershinow, service-learning coordinator ofUHM's English Department.

"Service-learning is a hands-on process where students apply theirknowledge outside of class," she said. "Too much classroom learningis binge and purge. That leads to 'academic bulimia.'"

"In service-learning, students learn by doing, so information retentionlasts longer," explained Meredith Lee, graduate student program assistant. "For example, if I had to drive somewhere, I would learn the directionsmuch better by following a map than if someone pointed the way."

Hershinow agreed. "Our goals are to increase the representationof Pacific Island students in higher education and to involve them in servingtheir communities so they'll learn in the process."

Reading is vital to the college connection. Through a project calledCelebrating Teen Reading, small groups read their choices of books froma special list and then meet with mentors in literature circles to discusswhat the week's leisure-reading means to them. "People come from differentbackgrounds so participants learn from each other," said Hershinow.

"The Pacific Island cultures value being in each other's companyso the intimacy of literature circles is a good way for Pacific Islandersto learn," said Lee.

The literacy project will culminate in an Interactive Literature Festivalfrom 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, April 28, in the UHM Art Auditorium. "It's a great opportunity for youth readers, mentors, authors, andteachers to talk about what they've read," said Hershinow. "We'relooking for individuals to serve as facilitators so literature circles canmeet before the festival." The event is free; however, there is a$4 charge for pizza and beverages.

Guest authors at the festival will include UHM graduates Lois-Ann Yamanaka,whose novels include Name Me Nobody, and Yokanaan Kearns, whose play,Pidg Latin, is being performed at local theaters.

For more information, contact Hershinow at 239-9726, 956-3081, or