Nationally accredited Hawaii preschool educates homeless children at shelters, beaches

Homeless and living on a Hawaii beach, Sarah Kanuha never imagined being able to provide preschool for her youngest daughter.

But on Thursday, the mother of five watched 4-year-old Aulii Malia Kanuha receive a preschool diploma. The girl was one of 35 students to graduate from Ka Paalana Traveling Preschool, which educates about 700 homeless children each year.

The Kanuha family is one of many in the country trying to raise children amid joblessness and homelessness. An annual survey released this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation says 16.4 million children in the United States — nearly one-fourth — were living in poverty in 2011.

Hawaii remains one of just 10 states with no state-funded pre-kindergarten program. The nationally accredited preschool is funded mostly through federal programs.