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  • Higher education is in reach for more students thanks to these efforts

The University of Hawaiʻi was awarded $2.3 million by the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation to help increase the number of low-income and first generation middle and high school students in the Windward Oʻahu community to succeed in postsecondary education. 

The Soar Higher grant will support activities to build college and career aspirations, increase academic readiness, and provide support to students in navigating along their educational journey. The grant aims to help eliminate achievement gaps among groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

The grant builds upon the success of GEAR UP Hawai‘i, a statewide grant from the U.S. Department of Education to improve access to and success in higher education at high-poverty middle and high schools statewide. GEAR UP Hawai‘i has been serving Hawaiʻi’s low-income youth since 2000, impacting an estimated 35,000-plus students statewide. 

“We are committed to working with partners to advance educational equity in the Windward Oahu community,” said Stephen Schatz, executive director of Hawaiʻi P-20 Partnerships for Education. “This is going to be a team effort, and we will focus on students who need help the most.”

“We know the best path to household stability runs through a two- or four-year degree. But it’s still far too difficult for young people to get to and through college. We hope this four year investment will double the number of public school graduates in Windward O‘ahu who earn a degree or certificate,” said Alex Harris, vice president for programs at Harold K.L. Castle Foundation.

Under the Soar Higher grant, the Windward community will utilize a coordinated, regional grades “6-16” approach to provide students with developmentally appropriate support to help them successfully complete high school, then enroll and persist in college. Windward area high schools will work with their feeder middle schools and Windward Community College to develop and implement a vertically-aligned, comprehensive college and career program that will provide counseling and support for students to explore career interests, improve their academic preparation, engage in work-based learning opportunities, and ultimately transition successfully through the 6-16 pipeline to eventually attain their career goals.

“Our goal is to empower our students with the knowledge and skills they need to create their own postsecondary plan,” said Bernie Tyrell, principal of Castle High School. “We are grateful for the generous support of the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation to continue this work that we have started in building career pathways and we will use these funds to support the implementation of our plans so that our students can succeed after high school.”  

"Through Soar Higher, Harold K.L. Castle Foundation has brought us together to support our ʻopio, this next generation, to achieve their career goals through education. This not only leverages the strengths of our Koʻolau communities, where we all work together to create better tomorrows for our children, but also grows the dreams of our children, which are the dreams of what we will become as communities," said Windward CC Chancellor Ardis Eschenberg.

Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education serves as the lead for the Soar Higher grant. This project is jointly funded by the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation and in partnership with GEAR UP Hawai‘i, the competitive federal grant of $28.8 million awarded to Hawai‘i over seven years starting in 2018, which is also led by Hawai‘i P-20.  

Questions? / More Information

If you would like to learn how you can support UH students and programs like this, please contact us at 808 376-7800 or send us a message.

FOR UH • FOR HAWAIʻI, The Campaign for the University of Hawaiʻi, is focused on raising $1 billion to support UH priorities on all 10 campuses across the state, including student success; research that matters; kuleana to Native Hawaiians and Hawaiʻi; sustainability, resilience and conservation; innovation and entrepreneurship; building Hawaiʻi’s workforce; and engaging our community. Learn more at

Questions? / More Information

If you would like to learn how you can support UH students and programs like this, please contact us at 808-956-8700 or send us a message.

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The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. The mission of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation is to unite donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations by raising philanthropic support and managing private investments to benefit UH, the people of Hawai‘i and our future generations.