If you’re like me and- I suspect most mainlanders, you think something like this: Hawai'i- Pacific Ocean- Beaches- Warm weather- Vacations- beautiful geography- volcanoes- gorgeous biology and biodiversity- I’d like to go there some day.

And, we’re right on all counts. But, we betray our limited view of visitor or outsider forgetting that Hawai’i and it people have a culture, perspectives, and opportunities.

It is precisely the setting, qualities and opportunities of the islands that allow Hawai’i Preparatory Academy or HPA to offer island specific and educational opportunities to secondary school boarding students.

The answer to the question “Boarding school- in Hawai’i?” is “yes.” HPA offers great opportunities for students interested in boarding school, unique HPA programs, and learning and growing in the islands.

Sea Turtle Research
The Sea Turtle Research Program is one of HPA’s well-known specialty programs. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2007, 1,500 HPA students have participated in the program since its inception.

George Balazs, leader of the Marine Turtle Research Program within the Protected Species Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine Fisheries Service, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, and Marc Rice, director of HPA’s Sea Turtle Research Program lead the program as a team.

Balazs loves and appreciates the work of HPA students.

“The students are budding field technicians; junior scientists who work side-by-side with us and they make it possible for us to do all those things that Marc and I couldn’t possibly do with one other person from my staff. Three of us could do ‘x’ percent in one day. With five, 10 students, we’re able to do 10 times ‘x’ in a day. Students, under Marc’s direction, are the foundation of the program and the magnitude of what we’ve been able to accomplish can be attributed to these well-mannered and thoughtful students.”

Twenty years of collaboration and research have produced encyclopedic knowledge of the Hawai’ian green turtle(Chelonia mydas).

Current student projects include remote video observation of turtle behaviors, study of gender dependent growth rates, with much of the new research and approaches driven and shaped by technology including telemetry to follow and map turtle movement.

Rice explains: “In the beginning, it was simply a tape measure, calipers, and a scale. We’d measure them and weigh them and that was all we could do basically.” “We’re doing things with technology that very few other folks do.”

Today, the program includes Middle School Students, and Upper School Turtle Rescue Teams that respond to calls about stranded turtles and the program continues expanding. With years of focus on turtles, Rice would like to see a conservation angle exploring the interactions and relationships between humans and turtles added to the program.

“Perhaps expanding our scope, continuing to reach out to the community and focusing on some of the environmental aspects and human interactions with turtles because we’re going to run into more and more of those issues.”

Student Congress on Sustainability
Treating the earth as a precious resource begins on the island and working to understand the special nature of their location, HPA hosted the fist Student Congress on Sustainability this past June. Bringing together delegates from the other Big Island schools, students attended workshops, attended presentations and explored ways to work together in support and maintenance of the island’s environment.

As Karen Yamasato, assistant chair of the HPA Go Green Committee and one of the original organizers of the Congress explained: “Our main objective is to facilitate student networking and sustainability awareness. So much of what we do with other schools is competitive, such as sports or math league. The Congress is not about competition; it’s about student networking and working together to solve a common problem. It’s about building good relationships. We want this to kick off a yearlong effort towards sustainability, and it’s easier to enact change when you have a network of support.”

Dr. Bill Wiecking, HPA’s Go Green Committee Co-chair, adds:
“Being on an island gives us a unique opportunity to demonstrate sustainability, because we can’t have anything going on behind the scenes.” “If the barge were to stop coming, we would have a month of oil a nd after that we would be back to hunting and gathering. That’s not sustainable.” “This island should be a model for sustainable energy use. We have wind, solar, geothermal. Sustainability can be done here.”

Additionally, HPA is making numerous capital improvements dedicated to institutional stewardship of the environment. HPA already heats water using solar power and cleans its pool using an ozone-based cleaning system. But, there’s more to do and HPA students will drive much of it.

As Dr. Wieckling explains, “Raising awareness is good. But now we need to begin the next step: creating engagement, not just awareness.”

But wait... there's more!
The Sea Turtle Research Program and Go Green Initiative are just two programs unique to HPA and its island setting.

A cultural nexus, a beautiful location, and opportunities to support and preserve the islands are not opportunities that one finds every day.

HPA offers a great set of opportunities if you’re considering boarding school and have a penchant for programs offering hands-on experience in a tight-knit local community.

To learn more about HPA and its programs visit the school's web site: http://www.hpa.edu.