Education : Castle Colleagues

Castle Colleagues Program


For more than a century, the Samuel N. & Mary Castle Foundation has strived to provide a stronger developmental start for the children of Hawaii. Trustee and Executive Director Al Castle recognized that by giving knowledge, assistance and peer support to those in the early childhood field, the children themselves would benefit.

Castle was involved in helping the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation create the model for a similar program for human service directors, and saw early on that a version for early childhood site directors would be valuable. His fellow Trustees agreed, and Castle Colleagues has now become a signature program of the Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation, sparking much interest in both early childhood and philanthropic venues.

The Castle Colleagues program gives site directors a highly practical, hands-on array of management skills, tools, sources and information, while remaining respectful of their time. Participants meet in a series of three intensive retreats (usually 3-4 days) on weekdays and weekends. The program is organized to give each group some peers and resource people they can contact, long after the official course ends.

What is different about this program?

"The curriculum is highly practical; it's based on actual hands-on management situations in early childhood development centers, and addresses what site directors are most interested in-what they can take to work and use on Monday," said Holly Henderson, program director, who helped develop the program at Castle's side.

The program is housed at Chaminade University, a Catholic Liberal Arts College in Honolulu. Session leaders include a wide variety of cross-sector resource people from other Hawaii colleges, as well as foundation trustees, accountants, applied computer and communication experts, and the early childhood field. Castle Colleague alumna, Wendy Stone, teaches in the program as well as advises on course content and other issues.

Stone spoke at the recent Family Foundation Conference session. What matters most to her is that Castle Colleagues invested in her leadership. By creating this opportunity, "it was like someone telling me 'we believe in you and your ability to make a difference,'" said Stone. She now heads the statewide director's association, Kia'i ka'ike, which was founded by graduates of the Castle Colleagues program. This association offers ongoing support for directors, helping them become more influential in their field.

"To move system change, we need better equipped leaders from within the system," said Al Castle. "Castle Colleagues helps us to affect more children by providing the school directors tools to improve their school's performance, while acquiring some of the advocacy and public awareness skills to move our early education system forward."

Castle said that although the course content is strong, it's the "people connections" that are most important. "The 120 graduates statewide have formed their own alumnae network, and have broken through the barriers to communicating with one another."

Tips for Peer Learning Programs

Interested in starting a peer learning program? Henderson, who directs the Castle Colleagues program as well the Weinberg Foundation's Fellows program, offers some good advice:

  1. Make sure you pay attention to what the people in the field want and need. Listen to what they say they want to learn.
  2. Design the program so it's simple, easy to access and respectful of participants' time.
  3. Keep red tape to a minimum.
  4. Find top-notch instructors from many community venues who are open and approachable, skilled in teaching adults, and who care enough to assist participants in the future as well as during the class if needed.
  5. Finding the right home for the project is key-choose carefully. Such programs should involve cross-sector collaborations, and need a setting that values them.

2014 Castle Colleagues Application (Due February 10, 2014)

Contact: Carlynn Wolfe (