ONE JOURNEY ENDS, ANOTHER BEGINS: Student-Built Homes for Beneficiaries

HawCC Home Students

HawCC students build the home’s frame.

HILO, HAWAI‘I – For the past year, students in the Model Home program at Hawai‘i Community College (HawCC) spent their days designing, drafting, welding, wiring, and constructing a home for a Hawaiian Homes beneficiary.

Once the home was completed, it was hard to tell who was more excited?  The students or the new homesteader.

“I don’t have to rent no more. I can actually pay mortgage!” said 33-year-old Malia Keli‘ikoa, whose family of four was handed the keys to the student-built home in Keaukaha this past May.

HawCC Home Ohana

Malia Keli‘ikoa and her ‘ohana were this yearʻs recipients of HawCCʻs student-built home.

Malia was transferred the lease by her mother Denice, who has been on the Hawaiian homes waiting list since January 1986.

“I really wanna say thank you to every single one of you,” said Malia, “To all the professors, the students, you guys made a big difference in my life.”

The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home was the 45th home to be built through a partnership between the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and HawCC, where DHHL provides land and funding, and HawCC provides the low-cost manpower. In the end, DHHL fulfils its mission of returning Native Hawaiians to the land, and HawCC students gain on-the-job training in home design and construction.

“There’s nothing like working on a real home in the field,” said Lance Mento, an Electrical Installation & Maintenance Technology student at HawCC, who helped install the home’s solar panels, “There’s more in the field to take into account.”

“The students have to put in that much more effort,” said Joel Tanabe, Chairman of the HawCC’s Construction Technology Department, “Up to the point where the quality and standards are really high, and you’ll notice that.”

HawCC Home

The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home was the 45th home built under this partnership between DHHL and HawCC.

Students utilized energy-efficient technology throughout the home, including the 4 kW solar photovoltaic system, a solar water heater system, and Energy Star qualified appliances.

Carpentry students built custom cabinets, doors, and windows. And agriculture students provided low-maintenance landscaping. All at a low cost to Malia of $199,935.

Over 3,640 HawCC students have gained real-world experience in the Model Home program since it began in 1965. A similar partnership is being replicated on O‘ahu, and preliminary talks of the program on Kaua‘i are also in the works.

To participate in the HawCC Model Home program, visit For more information on similar opportunities on O‘ahu and Kaua‘i, contact DHHL’s Information & Community Relations Office at (808)620-9590.

Here are more photos from the Home Blessing & Dedication Ceremony held earlier this year: