Flex program allowed Sienna Delano to work in a classroom and as a fairytale character
She has been Snow White. She has dressed up as Belle. And Sienna Delano ’23 has even donned on the wings of Tinkerbell. Her ultimate princess fairytale, though, came true in May when she slipped into her blue gown and sashayed across the stage to receive her Chaminade University bachelor’s degree at the Waikiki Shell. But, it has not always been an animated Disney fantasy world for the Kapolei resident.
“When I was in high school, I was dealing with health issues that impeded me from actually attending school,” says Delano, who received a B.S. in Early Childhood Education. “The underlying problem was gastritis, which caused me to pass out a lot, and I was throwing up everything I ate. I really hit rock bottom, but I used my mind to heal myself.”
And it worked with the help of her parents, Ken and Jacqueline, who are both psychologists. Delano ended up getting her high school degree online with Penn Foster. And when she finished her last class at 10 p.m., she recalled waking her parents up and screaming “I just finished.” She was only 16 years old, but this self-described “hustler” has always been somewhat of a wunderkind.
“Even though I got better, I was already enrolled in Chaminade’s Flex program, and I decided to stay with it,” Delano says. “Plus, I didn’t have my driver’s license then, and even though I do have my license now, I still don’t really like to drive.”
Chaminade’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) bachelor’s degree is aligned with state requirements and National Association for the Education of Young Children standards. The ECE major is flexible, and is offered through online courses that allow students to fit instruction into a busy schedule.
“We did some surveys and early childhood educators indicated that their life situations don’t allow them to take in-person courses,” says Dr. Elizabeth Park, associate professor and director of the Early Childhood and Montessori programs. “So what we did was really spend the energy and time to design robust online courses, so that we could really meet the needs of our educators.”
Delano understands the importance of early childhood education, and how it lays the groundwork for a child’s lifelong learning journey, contributing to their intellectual, social and emotional development. The positive experiences and skills acquired during these formative years create a strong foundation for success in school and in life.
“I started the Flex program in 2020 and my goal was to become an early childhood educator in a couple of years,” Delano says. “I really liked Chaminade’s online modules, which allowed me to set my own pace.”
Delano decided she wanted to become a second or third grade teacher because she enjoys reading to kids, a skill that she cultivated and strengthened while working at Storybook Entertainment Hawaii, which primarily provides character entertainment for private parties.
“I’ve always loved reading,” Delano says. “When I was young, I would read with my dad in a green chair that was designated for reading. I’ve probably read six to seven books this year alone.”
Delano’s parents have always stressed to her and her three sisters the importance of the mind and how to best use it to their advantage. She believes in the importance of using one’s mind lies in its transformative impact on personal development, cognitive abilities, emotional well-being and the overall quality of life.
“Even though I didn’t have the in-person campus experience, I was still able to create a lot of memories online,” says Delano, who will finish her student-teaching requirement at Kapolei Elementary School in December. “We would have ‘Session Rooms’ and ‘Workspaces” where we could post our ideas and have peer interaction.
“Sr. Malia Wong even had us submit videos of ourselves so it felt like we knew each other,” Delano adds. “She made me cry … in a good way. She called me an inspiration and said to me ‘Maybe I’ll see you as a princess.’”