Students help the Hawaiian community


POSTED: Monday, December 01, 2008

Service learning has nearly become a tradition for Kamehameha Schools Hawaii students. Every year, and beginning as early as middle school, students are required to complete a project with their class that will benefit the Hawaiian community.

The purpose of service learning is to make as much of a positive impact for the community as possible. Therefore, projects are usually done for places in Puna with cultural significance, or where people commonly gather.

“;We're helping Hawaiian communities so students are able to see the value of working,”; said biology teacher Layne Richards. “;The benefit is mutual.”;

Students are involved in service projects that range from beach cleanups to reforestation projects all over the Big Island, and sometimes on neighboring islands.

For KSH eighth-graders an annual service learning project takes them to the island of Molokai for a few days. While there they engage in several different service projects.

In high school, service learning is much more present. Every grade goes on at least one service field trip, so by the time students graduate, they have participated in at least four service learning projects.

For the past three years, the freshmen have gone on two trips, one to Haena and one to Keaukaha. At each site they learn about the site's history and its significance to Hawaiian culture while helping to improve the site.

As sophomores, students learn about different places and community groups that could use their help, and together they organize their own project.

  Pohoiki Beach Park has become the traditional place for sophomore service learning. Since many community members frequently go to Pohoiki, students have recognized the importance of keeping the area clean. They spend a day restoring some of the facilities and cleaning the beach.

For juniors, every year is something different. Junior students complete service projects at sites in the district that the year's Hoike will focus on. The Hoike is a mass performance by the student body which includes singing, hula and theater, and it always has a story line that centers around one district of the Big Island.

Last year's Hoike was based on the district of Hamakua, so the juniors took their service project to Waipio Valley, a place that holds great cultural and historical significance to the Hawaiian people.

The juniors hiked down into the valley where they helped clean out taro patches and worked in the river. After spending the entire day working, they hiked back up, which wasn't an easy task, and returned to school.

“;I think it's worth it, tying (service learning) into Hoike,”; kumu Richards said.

This year the district that Hoike is based on is Hilo. The specific site for this year's juniors hasn't been confirmed yet.

Being able to help the Big Island community has endless benefits for students. Each year it gives a new opportunity for them to make meaningful impacts in the Hawaiian community and gather more community service experience for college.

“;I feel that I am doing something for a greater cause than just myself, and that's one of the best rewards of this high school,”; said senior Kaidden Kelly of his experience with service learning.