Step Up Campaign launched at Washington Place today

Statewide movement aims to increase career and college readiness for public high school students

University of Hawaiʻi
Lesli Y Yogi, (808) 956-5443
Community & Business Outreach Coordinator, Hawaii P-20
Posted: Aug 28, 2009

HONOLULU – – A social movement sweeping Hawaiʻi’s public schools and local businesses took a big step forward today, as Waialua High School ninth graders committed themselves to graduating from high school ready for career or college during an event at Washington Place to kick off Hawai‘iʻs Step Up campaign. The Step Up Campaign encourages businesses, community organizations and individuals to support a more rigorous curriculum for high school students. At the center of this campaign is the Board of Education “Step Up” Diploma, the BOE Recognition Diploma for those graduating in 2013 and beyond. Hawaiʻi P-20’s goal is to enroll 75 percent of incoming public school freshmen statewide to pledge to earn this diploma, and to sign up 100 local businesses and community organizations as Step Up supporters by this December.

“As these students ‘step up’ to the challenge of earning the BOE Step Up Diploma, it shows their commitment to using their high school years to prepare themselves for more choices in life whether they decide to work, join a training or apprenticeship program or enroll in college after high school,” said Tammi Chun, Hawai‘i P-20 executive director. “This movement is required now more than ever, with recent statistics citing Hawai‘i’s need to encourage students to pursue a more rigorous high school course of study to better prepare them for success in career or college.”

In 2008, the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems reported that out of 100 ninth graders in Hawai‘i, 68 graduate from high school on time and of these, only 40 enter college, and 12 earn a college degree on time (or within ten years after starting ninth grade).

“From the studies we have conducted and a recent study by the University of Hawai‘i, we found that student motivation is absolutely critical to the learning experience. Students who are motivated are willing to go above and beyond what is in front of them. They are able to aspire to what will make a difference and what will impact their lives,” said Patricia Hamamoto, Hawai‘i Department of Education superintendent. “Students want classes that are not just challenging, but relevant. This more rigorous course load provides challenging courses that will help all those who graduate with the BOE Step Up Diploma.”

Nearly 40 people showed their support of this campaign today, implemented jointly between Hawai‘i P-20 Partnerships in Education, the Hawai‘i State Department of Education (DOE), Board of Education (BOE) and the University of Hawai‘i System. Speakers included Board of Education Chairman Garrett Toguchi, DOE Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto, University of Hawai‘i President M.R.C. Greenwood, Hawai‘i P-20’s Tammi Chun, President and CEO of Kaneohe Ranch and Harold K.L. Castle Foundation Mitch D’Olier, City and County of Honolulu spokesperson Bill Brennan, and students from Waialua High School.

“By embracing the Step Up Diploma, businesses will be making a direct investment in their future workforce,” said BOE Chairman Toguchi. “Graduates who complete its strict requirements will become career and college ready, and ultimately, high-skilled, competent workers who will help ensure Hawaiʻi businesses thrive. Naturally, when schools and colleges produce students who are ready to enter the workforce, the community will benefit from having educated residents with good jobs.”

“For those businesses that question, ‘What’s in it for me?’ I say this - You will spend less money and time finding qualified workers and training them, and you will be more likely to hire local employees who understand island culture and are committed to improving the social and economic status of the state. The students you are encouraging today to sign up for a more challenging and rigorous education could be working for you, or helping run your company, in just a few years.”
The Step Up campaign aligns with a national movement to raise the value of a high school diploma by increasing the rigor of high school standards, assessments and curriculum, and aligning expectations with the demands of postsecondary education and careers. To date, 35 states have adopted a more challenging diploma aligned with national standards.
Students and parents interested in learning more about the Step Up campaign or to enroll in the BOE Step Up Diploma can visit
Local businesses and community organizations that want to get involved can do so easily, by visiting and downloading the Step Up toolkit. The Step Up business pledge and toolkit identifies a range of ways that supporting organizations can participate in the Step Up campaign and support students’ post high school goals.
“The Carpenter and Drywall apprenticeship program, sponsored by the carpenters’ union has waived its math test requirement for entrance into their apprenticeship programs to those students graduating with the BOE Step Up Diploma. City Mill has also waived the pre-employment math test for graduating BOE Step Up students. Meanwhile, many local colleges and scholarship programs are coordinating their admissions and application requirements with the requirements of the BOE Step Up Diploma,” Chun said. “This is the first step as we build the groundswell to encourage all students to make informed choices in high school, to ensure they have more choices upon graduation.”
Hawai‘i P-20 Partnerships for Education is a statewide partnership led by the Good Beginnings Alliance, the Hawai‘i State Department of Education and the University of Hawai‘i System that is working to strengthen the education pipeline from early childhood through higher education so that all students achieve career and college success. Hawai‘i P-20 partners share a sense of urgency about the need to improve Hawaiʻi’s educational outcomes in an increasingly global economy. Visit for more information.

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