A class of 5th graders made history Monday morning as they were the first students to ever hold a graduation ceremony aboard the voyaging canoe Hokulea, especially one from a Hawaiian language immersion program.
The graduating 5th graders are from Ke Kula Kaiapuni Hawaii o Kapaa, and 12 graduated from a class of 15. The Hokulea arrived at Kalapaki Sunday afternoon on its statewide “Navigating Change” voyage that began in March.
The graduation ceremony at Nawiliwili included the traditional protocolnthe students chanted to request permission to come on board. In return, one of the crew (Kawai Hoe, of Hakipuu, Oahu) did an oli to invite them.
Kumu Kaleimakamae Cummings said that this year’s class also observed another “first.” Each student learned and performed a chant about their ancestors, going back to their great-grandparents.
“What’s really important with Hawaiians is to know their history, their family,” Cummings said, “Hawaiians believe that their knowledge comes from their kupuna.”
With Cummings, students on board, those watching from the dock and parents and family of the students sang “Kulaiwi” and “E Na Kini.” Each of the graduating students received a palapala hemo kula, or “diploma,” which featured their name and class portrait.
Dennis Chun, of Kauai Community College’s Hawaiian Studies program, helped coordinate the event. He said that while talking with kumu Kalei Arinaga and Cummings they came up with the idea. The teachers wanted to arrange a visit to Hokulea before the end of the school year, but Wilcox Elementary had already reserved the time slot. Monday was the students’ last full school day and they were to hold a graduation ceremony at school.
Students in kindergarten through fourth grade also came along for a field trip, led by kumu Arinaga and kindergarten teacher Kilinoe Kanahele. Kanahele has been with the immersion program at Kapaa Elementary School since its inception with one class and one student in 1989. Also joining them was kumu Kaee Calica of Kapaa High School’s program. Now, 56 elementary students are in Ke Kula Kaiapuni Hawaii O Kapaa.
In April, the class traveled to Hawaii for a field trip to study volcanoes and visit with other schools.
There are 19 Hawaiian immersion schools statewide on five islands, with enrollment in elementary, middle and high schools. In the 2001n02 school year, a total of 1,480 students were enrolled. On Kauai in the Kapaa complex schools, there were 107 total students, according to the Department of Education.
In Oct. 2000, the University of Hawaii at Hilo received federal funding to assist Native Hawaiian students to study Hawaiian language and culture there.
The Hawaiian language class recently went digital with an online class that about 100 people registered for from all over the world, including one from Hawaii.
A Hawaiian immersion charter school in Waimea for Niihau and West Kauai youth is Ke Kula Niihau O Kekaha, which was established in 1998 and now enrolls about 30 students.
Na haumana (“students”): Kekoa Colipano, Keala Fitzgerald, Kawahine Kanahele, Mahealani Kealoha, Ululani Oclit, Kaulananapua Punohu, Kaimana Rivera, Kealoha Rogers, Kahonihiilani Rowland, Keawemauhili Smith, Kimo Soares, and Paahaleamau Villatora.
Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or 245-3681 (ext. 252).
The Hokulea crew, which includes 20 people, will stay on Kauai until June 14. In the 1970s the Polynesian Voyaging Society built the 60-foot Hokulea to replicate an ancient Polynesian voyaging canoe and to sail traditional routes.
Now, PVS’ goals are to carry out voyaging programs, educate people about Hawaiian history and culture and build community partnerships.
The canoe will be in Nawiliwili until June 5 and shall be open for public visits from noonn6 p.m. June 8, it will be in Hanalei. The Hokulea will be on Kauai until June 11 and depart for Niihau until June 13. Next, it will come to Waimea June 13n14 and depart for Oahu June 14.