Hometown Heroes: Hawaii Learning Resource Fund bridges the gap

  • Waimea Middle School accepts a $10,000 donation from Hawaii Learning Resource Fund. Courtesy photo

Editor’s note: Each Wednesday, West Hawaii Today is publishing a story about individuals, groups or organizations that have helped make life better for others in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Hawaii Learning Resource Fund at Hawaii Community Foundation recently distributed $40,000 to help four Waimea schools address COVID-19 impacts in the coming school year.

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“The need to effectively support state-of-the-art teaching and learning in our community has never been greater,” said Sharon Vitousek, MD, an advisor to the fund and former chairperson of its board of directors.

The recipient schools are Waimea Middle Public Conversion Charter School (WMPCCS), Waimea Elementary School, Kanu O Ka ‘Aina New Century Public Charter School and Waimea Country School.

“I spoke with the principals and asked them to tell us what would help all students most now, and be especially helpful for students with learning differences, which was a focus of our 501(c)3 before we converted to a donor-directed fund at HCF,” said Vitousek.

The WMPCCS will use the grant to continue funding a youth intervention specialist position who identifies “at-risk” students and builds individualized interventions through positive productive relationships with the students and their families.

“The youth intervention specialist has had a tremendous impact on all our students, especially those who struggle in school. This position is now in danger due to our budget constraints, and the $10,000 from the Hawaii Learning Resource Fund … will be a much needed asset,” said Pat Rice, retired principal and grants coordinator.

Janice English, WMPCCS principal, said the school is very grateful for the support, which is “especially timely and relevant because of what’s happening with our children due to the COVID pandemic.”

English said the school has committed to distance learning through Oct. 2.

“We know this doesn’t fully meet the needs of middle school adolescents, who desperately miss their friends, and some are showing signs of sadness,” she said. “Considering all of this, our school’s youth intervention specialist Lori Ching is more critical than ever.”

Ching will be tele-counseling one-on-one or in small groups to help students find calm, confidence and focus, English said.

Waimea Elementary School will use the grant to purchase student licenses for Acellus Learning Accelerator, which provides instructional consistency between school and home.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools to look at how they deliver instruction and the tools that students are required to use to access their learning. An innovative solution is needed to bridge the gap between school and home learning, and we feel that the Acellus Learning Accelerator is that solution,” said Principal Scott Tamura.

Waimea Country School, a private K-5 school with 48 students, will create a resource aide position to handle tasks outlined in the school’s COVID-19 Response Plan in order to allow teachers to focus on children’s learning.

“Heading into this school year of disruption and uncertainty, we are seeking to support those students in our school who are at greatest risk of falling behind, specifically the children with learning differences. Demands on both teachers and aides are going to be greater than ever,” said Principal Amy Salling

At Kanu O Ka Aina New Century Public Charter School will use the funds to provide professional development for K-12 kumu (teachers) that are focused on strengthening project-, place- and culture-based education. The Hawaiian language immersion school currently has 625 students.

For more information on the Hawaii Learning Resource Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation, contact Vitousek at sharon.vitousek@gamil.com or Malu Debus at mdebus@hcf-hawaii.org.

The fund was established as a donor advised fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation in 2017. Prior, it operated as an independent nonprofit serving Hawaii Island students, teachers and schools for nearly 15 years. The purpose of the fund is to empower all kinds of learners through partnerships that advances teaching and learning in our community.

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The foundation is the leading philanthropic institution in the state and is a steward of more than 950 funds, including more than 280 scholarship funds, created by donors who desire to transform lives and improve communities. In 2019, HCF distributed more than $63 million in grants, contracts and scholarships statewide.

Know a Hometown Hero that should be highlighted next Wednesday? It can be anybody, from a youngster doing good for the community, to a professional helping with the COVID-19 pandemic, or even a kupuna! Please send your nominations to cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com with the subject: Hometown Heroes Nomination. Please include the hero’s name, contact information and what makes them a hero.

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