COURTESY OF HO'ALA SCHOOL
Olivia Zizzi gets to know a young baby Hawaiian green sea turtle during the seventh- and eighth-grade Save the Turtle project.
Doing good and loving it
Students, families and faculty donate time, energy and funds to several worthy causes
It is often said that big things come in small packages. Ho'ala School's 110 students, along with parents and teachers, are continually working to make this old cliché a reality. In Ho'ala's curriculum, character -- as well as reading, writing and arithmetic -- is developed.
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Whether in kindergarten or a senior in high school, Ho'ala students involve themselves in a variety of community service-related projects.
The students, with guidance from teachers, choose community service projects through a process of discussion and consensus.
"The students look for a need, recognize it and then try to fill it," teacher Kristi Desuacido said.
Since September, Ho'ala students have collected and distributed goods to the Lokahi Adopt-a-Family program, Hurricane Katrina victims and the children of Fanning Island. They also are helping protect Hawaiian green sea turtles.
During the 2005 holiday season, Ho'ala students adopted six families through the Lokahi Adopt-a-Family program.
Each Lokahi family member requested a special gift. Through the hard work and generosity of the Ho'ala students and their families, each Lokahi family received their specially requested gifts in addition to numerous other gifts including appliances, furniture, toys and gift certificates to supermarkets and restaurants.
Along with helping the unfortunate in Hawaii, Ho'ala students' charity has been felt in weather-ravaged Louisiana, where thousands of people lost a lifetime of possessions when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.
In an effort to aid Katrina victims, Ho'ala students placed empty bottles and cans in each classroom, where students were encouraged to leave their loose change. In a little more than a month, the students collected approximately $1,100. Upon hearing of the students' efforts, an anonymous donor added another $500 to the coin collection. Thus Ho'ala donated approximately $1,600 to the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina fund.
While spare change was going to Hurricane Katrina victims, primary school students were collecting school supplies for the children on Fanning Island, which is inhabited by 2,000 people and located 1,000 miles south of Hawaii.
The island has no electricity or running water, and residents rely on shipments from Australia and whatever supplies cruise lines can deliver to the island.
Second-graders Aaron and Mathew Norton, who saw firsthand the needs of the schoolchildren, initiated the Fanning Island Project.
"I just want them to have a better school," Mathew Norton said.
The children collected 320 composition books, 608 pencils, reams of paper and other school supplies for the Fanning Island students.
"It was fun to do with my friends because giving things to other people is nice," said Mathew.
"I learned that donating school supplies was a nice thing to do. Now, I think the Fanning Island kids are really, really happy," Aaron said.
"It's such an honor to be part of a school that's so giving to their community," primary teacher Phyllis Norton said. "I've been continuously amazed and impressed by the generosity of our Ho'ala families."
As the young children were learning the joys of giving, seventh- and eighth-graders were trained by the National Marine Fisheries Turtle Research Program on protecting Hawaiian green sea turtles. The students go to Laniakea Beach to monitor turtle behavior, educate beachgoers about the threatened species and clean the beach.
Community service does not end with the close of the school year. Ho'ala, in partnership with the University of Hawaii, runs Camp Kokua for two weeks during the summer. Camp Kokua has been nationally recognized and honored with the Daily Points of Light Award for its involvement with nonprofit organizations in providing community service.
Camp Kokua has worked with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Honolulu Police Department to host a "Honk for Safe Driving Campaign," planted trees on the Big Island and, during the summer of 2005, worked with local nonprofit and state organizations to become youth emergency responders, helping to establish a pilot program for Hawaii students throughout the islands.
Each school year passes like this one, full of students developing their character through service learning projects, developing a sense of community, and the importance and joy of giving and lending a helping hand.
Sometimes, big things do come in small packages.
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Education and character go hand in hand
Even students’ parents are required to take parenting classes
Nestled in the heart of Wahiawa is the intimate campus and tight-knit community of Ho'ala School, where character leads the way.
Visitors might be reminded of the one-room schoolhouses that once dotted the landscape as Ho'ala students of all ages gather under a plantation-style schoolhouse to continue the traditions of the school's founder, Joan Madden.
"At Ho'ala, education means a lifelong commitment to awakening one's whole self," said Chelsea Harry, humanities teacher.
Ho'ala's emphasis on character education and developing the whole individual has been the core of its existence since the school opened its doors in 1986.
"The school has a value system. It's not just educating; it's a way of life, a culture. It's the education of the whole person," Ho'ala Principal Nancy Barry said.
Ho'ala students learn to see themselves as having a vital role in their education as they lead parent-teacher conferences, participate in selecting service learning projects and voice their concerns through class meetings and connecting groups. Through these activities students learn to accept responsibility for their choices and actions.
"I'm happy with my son's progression, and I really appreciate the fact that he gets to make choices about his own education," parent Denise Ortal-Ballaibe said.
Parents also take on an important role at Ho'ala.
"Ho'ala is not just a school for students; it is a learning environment for students, families and faculty," Barry said.
Parents are required to attend a series of parenting classes.
"The purpose of the parenting classes is to help the school in its goals of having students grow in responsibility, respect, responsiveness and resourcefulness by providing parents with insights and ways of responding to their children that reinforces and enhances the school's practices," said Jef Fern, fifth- and sixth-grade teacher and one of Ho'ala's founders.
"Ho'ala is a community of students, parents and faculty who support each other not only as we develop individually, but also as we grow together," Harry said.
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What do you like about Ho'ala School?
"The learning environment and the teachers are really nice."
"I think the teachers are really cool, and we are all in a good environment."
"The way that everyone knows each other well and how they are all friends."
"It's a place that you can freely express yourself."
"The atmosphere is a lot more relaxed and open compared to other schools."
"Opportunities for true individual growth for students, teachers and parents."