KOLOA — Debra Blachowiak of Hawaii Children’s Theatre was amazed with the gift she got from fifth-grade students at Koloa School.
Working with Suzanne Kashiwaeda, the school’s counselor, and fifth-grade teachers Sarah Shiraki and Donna Okihara, the students presented the Hawaii Children’s Theatre representative with a monetary contribution from funds generated through a recycling project.
“This is very telling of your character,” Blackowiak told the students who had assembled for the presentation. “I know you’re all going to grow up to be strong citizens.”
Kashiwaeda explained that fifth-graders have a hard transition as they leave elementary school and enter middle school.
She noted that they need to feel good about themselves because they will be going from an environment of less than a hundred students to one where several hundred, if not a thousand, students gather.
That concept gave birth to Ho‘ihi Hui, which Kashiwaeda said translates to “the Tribe that Respects Ourselves, Others, and Our Community.”
On a field trip to Koke‘e, the students stopped to visit the Kekaha Landfill, so they could get a better feel for where the island’s ‘opala (trash) ends up, and under the umbrella of Ho‘ihi Hui, started a recycling project for aluminum cans and plastic bottles.
The students were broken down into members of teams, with each team rotating for the Wednesday collections, Kashiwaeda said.
Collection time starts at 7 a.m., and continues until 7:40 a.m., when the students report back to their classes.
For safety reasons, Kashiwaeda said they do not collect glass bottles.
“They’ve been really good,” Kashiwaeda pointed out. “They even came up with a cheer that they do when cars drive up to the Koloa Library collection site.”
The drive that resulted in the gift for Hawai‘i Children’s Theatre got a major boost from Jon Kobayashi, the athletic director for Waimea High School.
Kashiwaeda said that Kobayashi’s staff had just completed cleaning out the locker rooms, and the resulting collection of empty cans and bottles was all brought to the school.
“That was the biggest amount we collected to date,” Kashiwaeda said. “It was so much that it couldn’t all fit in my van.”
The collections are brought to Lihu‘e by Kashiwaeda, who does errands in town on Thursdays, and the resulting funds are amassed for the presentations.
Kashiwaeda said that the fifth-graders are planning for three beneficiaries. Each presentation is done following six weeks of collecting.
“They came up with the beneficiaries themselves,” she noted. “The students visited the Aloha United Way Web site, and from the list of organizations listed there, decided that they would present contributions to Hawaii Children’s Theatre, Special Olympics, and one other organization that they are undecided on.
“This is a really good group of children,” Kashiwaeda said.
The Ho‘ihi Hui project grew out of an after-school program, and since its inception, students have done several major community projects that include beach cleanups, planting a garden at the Queen Lili‘uokalani Children’s Center, and others.
Kashiwaeda said the projects are designed to teach the students about teaming up and working together, as well as give them more awareness of life in the community.
She noted proudly that sometimes it’s the students who have the most problems in school that work the hardest in the service projects.
“The nicest thing about Ho‘ihi Hui projects is that not one student even mentioned that they should keep the money raised,” Kashiwaeda said.
She added that, at the last collection, one girl came in with a bagful of cans, and told her, “I was going to use the money from this to buy a new CD, but decided to bring it here instead.”
The little-publicized drive takes place every Wednesday morning in the parking area of the Koloa Public/School Library close to the Koloa School main office.
People may drop off their aluminum cans and plastic bottles for recycling between 7 a.m. and 7:40 a.m.
Due to the school’s testing schedule, only three hands went up when Blachowiak asked, “How many of you got to see ‘Beauty and The Beast?’”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or firstname.lastname@example.org.