WAIKOLOA — The ballroom at the Hilton Waikoloa Village came alive Friday morning with chants and hula as nearly 300 keiki performed for friends and family at their summer enrichment program Hoiki.
It wasn’t a summer fun program, but West Hawaii students from grades K-12 had fun this summer at the four-week Aloha MAP (Meritorious Achievement Program) at Kealakehe High School.
And they learned much more than hula and chant.
“The program is about building up, motivating and encouraging kids to be the best they can be,” said Kumu Kenneth “Aloha” Victor.
Victor taught Hawaiian culture through chants and hula, learning about Madame Pele and the Hokulea Voyaging Canoe along the way. He instilled discipline and managing emotions as life lessons, all while uplifting and encouraging his students. He said the program provides an opportunity for Hawaiian based summer enrichment, showcasing the “intelligence of our people and our culture.”
Students learned protocol, traditions, values and an introduction to the Hawaiian language through chants.
“The program is about building them up and encouraging them to give back to their community,” said Victor. “They can move away, but they can’t walk away from home.”
Every morning began with motivational exercises. Victor said it got them going physically, mentally and spiritually, building self-confidence and a readiness to learn.
Aloha MAP is the brainchild of Lilinoi Grace, who secured a three-year $2.4 million grant from the Native Hawaiian Education Program through the U.S. Department of Education.
Grace, a former Miss Kona Coffee and Konawaena High School and Chaminade University graduate, developed the hands-on curriculum incorporating math, science, reading comprehension, and Hawaiian culture.
“I developed the program for students in my hometown community to be the best they can be,” Grace said.
She is passionate about helping keiki achieve their ultimate potential in life and giving back to their community.
“No matter what dreams and goals they have, they can reach them if they work hard, don’t give up and believe in themselves,” said Grace.
Keiki took nine field trips over a three-week period. They learned about science through trips on the Body Glove, Atlantis Submarines, Imiloa Astronomy Center and Therapeutic Horsemanship, cultural visits to Hulihee Palace, Mokuaikaua Church, Herb Kane Gallery, Kona Historical Society and Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park.
And they were provided breakfast and lunch every day of the program.
All of this free of charge, thanks to Grace.
With a 15:1 student/adult ratio, keiki from Naalehu to Waikoloa attended the program that also taught them project-based STEM.
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater geology major Kalama Kamoku moved to the mainland from the Big Island when he was 9 years old. His aunt happened to be Grace’s Konawaena classmate and told him about the program. It was the perfect opportunity for him to come back to Kona, teach science and fulfill his own university undergraduate research project. Three other UW-W science majors joined Kamoku in teaching STEM courses. Students built kites, Hokulea models and bridges and performed science experiments.
Kamoku said he lost his connection to the island, but he has been regaining it.
“Coming into Aloha MAP I thought I was going to teach the kids, but they’ve taught us more than we thought they ever would,” he said.
Kamoku added the experience has pushed him to come back home after obtaining his degree.
“I want to influence my community, help my home, my aina, my community,” he said.
Konawaena Middle School student Sherriann Furuuchi, 11, praised the program.
“We learned things we don’t learn in school, and we learn in a way that’s fun,” said Furuuchi.
Grace said she wants the keiki to leave the program knowing that Aloha MAP believes in them, to be their best in everything they do, strive for excellence and give it their all.
For more information, visit www.alohaproductions.org.