LIHU‘E — Four Kaua‘i graduates, out of a statewide total of 20, landed on the list of the Aloha ‘Aina Leadership awards, which recognize high school seniors as emerging leaders who embody the spirit of aloha ‘aina leadership in their school communities.
Administered each year by Kanaeokana’s Ho‘okele Committee, the program sees students nominated by teachers and administrators and chosen from Hawaiian-focused charter schools, state Department of Education kula kaiaupuni, and Kamehameha Schools.
“A major part of Kanaeokana’s vision is to bring into being a strengthened lahui that grows and sustains future generations of aloha ‘aina leaders, and this award celebrates that vision,” said Mahinapoepoe Paishon-Duarte, a member of Kanaeokana’s Ho‘okele Committee.
“Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic in our midst, we are grateful that our Kanaeokana schools teach, reinforce and practice aloha everyday. This has not changed, even while students are learning from home. We are encouraged that Hawaiian-culture-based schools and programs continue to connect students strongly to ‘aina and communities.”
Paishon-Duarte further explained that the group sees a greater urgency to recognize the importance of aloha ‘aina in addressing the “the pressing problems that face our societies globally in these tumultuous times.”
“We are growing the next generation to care for one another and the natural environment to provide sustainability for us all,” said Paishon-Duarte.”
Kaua‘i graduates receiving the award include Ury Mokihana Jumawan-Carvalho, from Hanapepe, a recent graduate of Kula Aupuni Ni‘ihau A Kahelelani Aloha, A New Century Public Charter School in Kekaha, who was surprised when she received the accolade, saying she didn’t even know what the award was for when she received it.
“I think it is for students who take pride in their school and their community who do their best to take care of the things around us,” said Jumawan-Carvalho. “Being an Aloha ‘Aina Leader to me is someone who wants to help heal people. I want to help farmers, fishermen and hunters who provide for the community by providing lomilomi, so they can continue their work in feeding the people.”
Jumawan-Carvalho is planning to attend Kaua‘i Community College and take up massage classes, and was nominated by kumu Kaleolani Stevens.
“Ury embodies kuleana to malama ‘aina,” said Stevens.
Inana Linda Lowry of Kanuikapono Public Charter School in Anahola is another Kaua‘i recipient of the AAL award, for investing in nature with the goal of planting 600 ti plants as an investment into the future.
“I feel I am very connected to the environment around me, and I am interested in how nature works. I love to work outside. For my senior project I planted 250 ti plants on my school campus,” said Lowry. “I think it’s important to inspire young children by planting, growing food and other culturally significant plants.”
She continues: “I feel like it is my responsibility to take care of the land I have, and that makes teaching others about the land my responsibility as well.”
Lowry hopes to finish school and get a job in her field of choice, possibly in agriculture. In the future she plans to be organized and financially secure, while surfing, gardening and farming.
Kumu Hina Dickinson said she had the pleasure of working hand in hand with Lowry for the last six-plus years.
“We have had our fair share of disagreements. But what always has connected us is the love for our plants. She has always shown a bright light when it came to her beloved plants around campus,” said Dickinson. “As a student of Kanuikapono for 13 years, she was raised in the love and respect of nature.”
She continues: “She embodies what it means to be ‘he ali‘i ka ‘aina, he kaua ke kanaka.”
Another recipient Andria Kai‘iniaku‘uleialoha Niau from Ke Kula Ni‘ihau O Kekaha Public Charter School in Kekaha.
“Aloha ‘aina to me means various things like, malama ‘aina and helping your community when help is needed, especially in this time we’re in with this pandemic,” said Niau.
Niau said that, in the next five years, she hopes to accomplish her biggest goal, which is to keep her Ni‘ihau language going for years to come.
School Principal Tia Koerte said this about Niau: “He haumana tupa‘a i te aloha kula, ‘ohana, ‘olelo.”
The final Kaua‘i recipient of the AAL award is Sean Ho‘ouka Asquith of Kawaikini Charter School in Puhi.
School Principal Jeselle Tanaka said this about Asquith: “He ali‘i Ka ‘aina, he kaua ke kanana.”
Asquith could not be reached for comment.
Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.