Crash course: College Experience Days give prospective students chance to explore Palamanui

  • Culinary student Jose Gaspar prepares a quesadilla.

  • Culinary student Alice Petriyenko takes orders for Palamanui's College Day on Wednesday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Visitors are given the opportunity to sit in on Kate Sims’ literature class on Wednesday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Visitors are welcome to Christina Hoffmann’s microbiology lab for Palamanui’s College Day on Wednesday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Nursing student Rufel Aehegma looks at a preserved specimin in the microbiology lab. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Kealakehe High School senior Sara Miki looks through the microscope under the guidance of microbiology lab instructor Christina Hoffmann at Palamanui's College Day on Wednesday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Nursing student Alyssa Salmo looks through the microscope in the microbiology lab at Palamanui’s College Day on Wednesday. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Choosing a college isn’t always easy, and getting a feel for a campus’ culture and classroom experience can be even less so.

To give prospective students an idea of what studying at Hawaii Community College – Palamanui is like, the school is continuing to open its doors to give residents a chance to tour its facilities and sit in on its courses.

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College Experience Days, which kicked off Wednesday and continues today, is intended to give prospective students a chance to see what it’s like within a college classroom, said Marty Fletcher, director of Hawaii Community College – Palamanui.

“As a community college, we want people to realize from their middle school years up or whenever that this is an option for them now that the campus is here,” he said.

Throughout the two-day event, prospective students and their families have an opportunity to tour the campus and sit in on class sessions to see firsthand how the campus operates and its instructors teach.

On Wednesday, for example, families sat in on a range of courses, including literature, speech and communication, art and math.

Elizabeth Shaver, a social science lecturer whose survey of psychology was open to visitors, said the College Experience Days give prospective students a taste of what the college has to offer.

“The day is a great opportunity, kind of like eating at a buffet, where you can try in small portions different classes by going to different classes and seeing what happens in those classes — the teaching styles, student participation and experience,” she said.

Among those attending was Cheyla Page, 16, of Captain Cook, who visited with her mother to explore her options for the next couple years.

“I’m hoping to see what my college experience will be like,” Page said, adding the college offers the potential of either taking online classes as an alternative to going to the University of Hawaii at Manoa or doing two years at the college and obtaining an associate’s degree before transferring to the Oahu campus.

Page said she’s focused on medical school and pursuing medicine, and said she’s looking at how taking courses at Palamanui can fit into the larger plan.

And from what she saw, she’s feeling good about it.

“I think I like the location a lot and the setup of campus — how clean and very open it is to everything,” she said.

She also enjoyed how the classes were being executed and said she appreciated seeing how the college’s instructors taught their respective classes, specifically pointing to Jim McCleery’s survey of mathematics.

“I thought the professor in that class was very personable, very outgoing,” she said. “And that’s something I like to see in teachers, someone who will sit down with you to talk with you.”

Page also pointed to the college’s embrace of modern technology throughout the campus, something other visitors were quick to point to as a highlight as well.

Renee Hashimoto, a science teacher at Konawaena High School, said she was very impressed with the campus’ facilities, particularly its lab, saying it was on par with the facilities at the University of Portland, where she studied.

Having that modern equipment, she said, is especially important for students studying science.

“Science is always changing,” she said. “They need that newer technology in order to have students coming out with the most current information.”

She also remarked on how many science courses are being offered at the college, saying that if students want to go pursue any of the sciences, it’s important they start taking science courses their first year.

“So it’s really good how many science courses they offer here, so kids could start here and then, if they wanted to, transfer,” she said. “So it’s something that’s an actual, viable option for them.”

And overall, the event is a great chance to see what Palamanui offers to everyone — from the recent high school grad to someone looking for an opportunity to expand their own knowledge.

And while higher education “can sound kind of aloof or abstract,” Fletcher said, he wants people to recognize that the campus is here as a resource.

“It’s a community asset to have this campus here,” he said. “And it’s here to serve even people that might not think of themselves as ever going to college, they should check it out.”

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Check-in for the first block of tours today starts at 8 a.m. A social science “spring fling” celebration featuring potluck, games and a food drive is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

More information is available at www.hawaii.hawaii.edu/collegeexperiencedays.