My Turn: Our communities owe more to our haumana

ʻAʻohe pau ka ʻike i ka hālau hoʻokahi.

All knowledge is not taught in the same school.

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‘Olelo No‘eau #203

It’s becoming a common scene. Teacher calls and tells parents there’s been a COVID exposure in the classroom, so they need to pick up their kids, bring them home, and quarantine for the next 10 days. We all do our part, because it’s important to keep other kids safe, to keep the virus from spreading, keep our schools open for the other kids. But it’s hard.

It’s hard on caregivers, it’s hard on students, and it’s hard on educators. When kids are out for 10 days at a stretch, and with increasing frequency during the Delta variant surge, everything grinds to a halt. Parents cannot work, teachers lose ground with kids already behind from a year of distance learning, and most critically, our kids are stuck in limbo. When their peers are in class, and the school days are marching forward, they’re home trying hard to keep pace without access to the classroom and often without a solid plan to stay engaged.

The isolation these kids and their caregivers are experiencing is painful, it’s problematic, and it sheds harsh light on the long-standing systemic problems we’ve been living with, much like so many other issues put into focus by the trials of the pandemic. As a community, we rely so completely on our school systems to “take care” of our kids’ educational needs. It’s an unfair burden to put on a single institution to be everything kids need to succeed. And because we’ve put that burden on our schools for so long, we are ill-equipped as a community to support our haumana when the pandemic exposes cracks in our tenuous system.

For our kids to be successful — grounded, well-educated, equipped to pursue their goals — every one of us has kuleana; not only in our roles as parents or grandparents, but as members of a community that has a responsibility to surround and uplift the youth who are our future. This is the principle that grounds our work at Hokupaʻa, and the environment we work as an organization to support. Our kids deserve a network of support from us all, one that creates opportunities, opens doors, inspires, and teaches — beyond the walls of the classroom.

There are many organizations that take an active role in partnership with their local schools, but not enough. Let us all ask ourselves — what does my company, or nonprofit, or union, or community group, do to make our community into a school? How do we teach, mentor, inspire, and support the success of the youth who, tomorrow, will create the future we need? Do we have a meaningful relationship with our educational institutions, that lasts over time and makes an impact for our kids?

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This is the community our kids deserve. And today, we’re a long way off. So, right now, we ask you to think about what you can do to support the parents and students at home, stuck in limbo. Reach out to a teacher to offer a special Zoom one-on-one mentoring session or virtual field trip. Design a project kit you can deliver to kids you know who are at home. Join us in creating communities that surround all our keiki with education, mentorship, aloha and care. Take small steps that help us set a new paradigm now, for what we owe our kids tomorrow.

By Art Souza, Wally Lau, Kaimana Barcarse on behalf of the Hokupaʻa Navigation Council.