Higher Education On Island

Gary Ellwood
Marketing director and guest lecturer at Kauai Community College

Please tell us about Kauai Community College. KCC is a wonderful opportunity to begin your college career and stay on the island. If your choice is to work in something for which you need a certification or an associate’s degree, you can complete that here.

If your choice is to go to a four-year school, this is a great opportunity to start your education in an environment where you can work much more cost-effectively and still get all of the credits and ability to move forward toward a degree.

What is beneficial about attending KCC? It’s important for the island to have a viable higher-education institute present for students here.

College education is very expensive, and if you can get a start on your college education by spending a couple of years staying on the island, keeping the cost down because community colleges are so affordable, you can get started here and knock out half of your coursework.

The community college also offers a place to go when you’re done with high school and you’re still figuring out what your next major goal is. You can learn trades and crafts here, from botany to culinary to auto mechanics to carpentry, as well as liberal arts, math, science and nursing.

Do you offer classes for adults? One of the cool things about the college is that it’s open to the entire community. The Office of Continuing Education and Training, which is our noncredit side, offers classes in specific disciplines to learn a specific skill or a specific piece of knowledge without going through the college-application process.

Some examples of what OCET offers are bartending, Microsoft Office classes, music and farming … the selection is enormous.

Do you teach any classes? I teach video and storytelling in the digital media arts department. It’s nice, after 30 years of doing film and television work, to share the basics with folks who are just starting out in their careers at whatever age they’re coming into the class.

Over the three years I’ve been doing this, we’ve been able to accrue enough professional equipment so they can get hands-on experience and a professional understanding of exactly what the job entails, whether that’s lighting, sound, screenwriting, camera work or editing.

What’s most rewarding about working at KCC? Working with the community. The very nature of a college is to be a servant to the population of the people around you … so that residents can get the knowledge and get to the next step in who they want to become while they’re still on the island everybody wants to live on.

What’s the most challenging aspect? Encouraging students to look beyond finishing high school. There is a significant percentage of high school seniors who are still trying to figure out what’s next. Our challenge is to let them completely understand what KCC offers and see if it’s a good fit for them.

What is the application process like? The beauty of KCC is that everyone gets accepted. However, if you’re taking credit classes at the college, you will need to complete an initial test that will ensure you’re being placed in the right classes to match your current skill level, and then you have to sit down with a counselor to figure out what classes you need to take to reach your goal.

What makes you get up every day and go to work? I believe that the knowledge college gives you, the skill set college gives you, gives you control of your life and the future you’re about to undertake at any point in your life. I think that’s empowering.