Growing Assets

Summit + Assets School

Date
Oahu K-12 Schools
Place ‘Ālewa Heights
Text Meredith Enos
Thread School of the Future

Since 1955, Assets School has been serving gifted and capable students, specializing in those with dyslexia and other language-based learning differences. Assets provide a strength-based program, complemented by outreach and training, that empowers students to become effective learners and confident self-advocates.

As Assets Schools celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, it continues its commitment to students with learning differences by expanding to a second campus and opening a learning center on Maui—dramatically increasing the ways in which learners can access the school’s strategies for success.

In addition to the high school campus in Alewa Heights, the Assets Center for Learning opened its doors in Kahului, Maui, this September. The Alewa Heights campus is the former site of Academy of the Pacific, which had a similar, long-standing mission to educate children who needed a non-traditional educational environment. The two schools finalized a merger agreement in 2014.

“There is a village-like quality to the new campus,” comments Paul Singer, Assets Head of School. “For high schoolers, there is more space to walk around and explore, and they have a greater sense of independence. It is conducive to our specialized curriculum.”

The kindergarten through eighth grade classes continue at the school’s 3.5-acre original campus at One Ohana Nui Way, near Hickam Air Force Base. In 2013, the school was able to purchase these grounds, which they had been leasing for the past 20 years, from the U.S. Navy. The Assets Center for Learning in Kahului and the Assets Teacher Training and Outreach Program (housed in the Kamehameha Schools’ Center for Community Learning in Ma‘ili) both off er assessments, workshops, and tutoring for students who may have educational differences, as well as parent and educator training.

Assets’ mission is to “provide a place for gifted and/or dyslexic children that provides an individualized, integrated learning environment.” Small class size, multisensory curricula and structured behavior management programs are just some of the ways Assets achieves those objectives.


The new high school campus has relaxing spaces for camaraderie

In laymen’s terms, Assets aims to “help students understand who they are as learners,” says Sandi Tadaki, Assistant Head of School and Director of Admissions. “This journey begins in the primary grades where children begin to explore and come to know their strengths, interests and challenges; where there are struggles, they begin to understand and acquire the tools and strategies they'll need to succeed.”

Some of these tools involve integrating appropriate accommodations, such as extra time on assignments or tests, direct instruction to help skill development, and “assistive technology” tools, which Tadaki says are “tools for learning that have helped our students become more efficient students”—from low-technology aids like reading guides, to digital options.

In conjunction with this, Assets builds and reinforces confidence by cultivating a student’s strengths and interests. “To help them discover their strengths and talents, across grades 1–8 we have ‘enrichments’ which are brief, non-graded, typically non-academic electives that provide opportunities to try many different things in hopes of finding something that rocks their world,” says Tadaki. These electives include visual and performing arts, athletics, construction, cooking and computer simulation.


Susannah Johnson, High School Faculty

In high school, Assets offers a mentorship, pairing kids with adults in the community working at a job they’re interested in. “These endeavors provide a necessary, positive counterbalance to the struggles they face daily,” Tadaki says. “Engagement in these activities will remind our keiki that effort pays off, though it may not always feel this way with regard to academic endeavors, that learning can be joyful, and that they are very capable of learning new and interesting things.”

Students’ journeys culminate in “Senior Night,” a celebration involving friends and family, during which each 12th-grader discusses his or her academic journey—what life was like before attending Assets, what they learned about themselves during their time here, and where they plan to go and what they plan to do post-Assets. “We want our students to fully embrace and celebrate who they are, without embarrassment or apology for having learning differences that affe ct reading, writing, math, or executive function,” says Tadaki.

“Over the past 60 years, not only have we gotten better at serving kids with educational differences, we’ve also gotten better at building a community network of parents and families,” Singer says. “That is important, because when families are on this journey they often feel isolated and without resources.” In addition to the new sites, the school is embarking on a capital-improvement campaign for both primary campuses, and seeks to raise $20 million for an art library, outreach center, visual- and performing-arts complex, playgrounds, larger classrooms and a two-story administration building. It is hoping to raise an additional $10 million to create a student financial aid endowment.

Singer is most excited about what these improvements mean for the students. “Having had the opportunity to see so many kids enter Assets with feelings of anger, apathy, or despair and watch them grow to a point where they see the light at the end of the tunnel and move from being fatalistic to being optimistic is tremendously gratifying,” he says.

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