Hilo’s Studio Shaka—First High Tech Youth Network in US

I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Around 3:30 p.m., students from 5th to 12th grade come to their after-school “home” at Connections Public Charter School (CPCS) in Hilo—every day if they want until dinnertime—to explore their personal interests and passions with the help of skilled guides and the latest state-of-the-art technology.

One young man was writing a song for his guitar with the help of a teacher. A group of about 6 students showcased their break dance skills. A trio of young ladies offered three-part harmony. A young man took six months to teach himself to play the violin—off YouTube!  Check out his progress one year later in this video.

Students worked with Adobe creative software, granted through the White House’s ConnectED initiative, to film, edit and produce short videos, design websites or social media sites, and more—all contributing to success in technology-driven education and careers. You saw one amazing video in last week’s blogpost. Other students worked with advanced laser technology to make metal and wood projects that were as meaningful to them as they were remarkable. The photos below tell the story.

School founder and principal, John Thatcher, created Studio Shaka “to encourage (student) members to think creatively, critically, and strategically to make effective decisions, solve problems, and achieve goals in their academic, personal, and social lives.” Technology is a cornerstone of the program. More than three-quarters of the participating students come from low-income families.

“In a small community such as Hilo (on The Big Island of Hawaii), youth run higher risks of losing interest and leaving school,” continued Thatcher. “Students are eager to stay in school and participate in Studio Shaka, both because it’s a supportive ‘ohana’ or family, and because they have a chance to use high-quality tools.”

CPCS joined the High Tech Youth Network (HTYN) in 2014 to form Studio Shaka, the first HTYN site in Hawaii and the U.S.

So what is this High Tech Youth Network?  Find out more Thursday.