By Chad Takatsugi
As political and social discourse surrounding Native Hawaiian issues continues to escalate, the students of Kamehameha Schools Kapālama hosted the first-ever ʻAha Aloha ʻĀina. Inspiried to take responsibility for the future of Hawaiʻi, students dedicated an entire day to “He Aha Lā He Kūkulu? Identifying the Pillars of Aloha ʻāina.”
Students and teachers partnered to plan the day’s activities. Sessions included student-facilitated panel discussions with contemporary Native Hawaiian community leaders, workshops presented by guest speakers, a student-coordinated educational activity center, and a concert featuring performances by musical artists and scholars from the Native Hawaiian community.
Mahina Melim, a senior at KS Kapālama and president of the Kiaʻi ʻŌlauniu club which was responsible for planning the event, said: “As students, we look around and we see turmoil. There is so much conflict and people are fighting for something they believe in. It is a harsh reminder of how important it is for us to have an active role in making our future better through the lens of aloha ʻāina. “That’s why we decided it was important to set aside time to educate and inspire our fellow students and even some of the teachers about what is important to us as Native Hawaiian youth and what resources are available to aid us on our path forward.”
Participation in the day’s activities was not mandatory, but students and staff were encouraged to attend sessions and incorporate lessons of the day into classroom discussions. An energized student body, and registration caps for each activity, led to most sessions being held at capacity.
Hawaiian language kumu Jonah Kahanuola Solatorio, one of the faculty advisers who provided guidance to the student coordinators, “was impressed but not surprised” at how engaged his students were.
“It is remarkable to see how passionate and motivated our haumāna can be when we make it clear to them how important their voice is. For these students to be so interested in social, cultural and political conversations so early in their lives, it assures us that our future is in good hands,” said Solatorio.
This event, which was took place on November 25, coincided with the observance of Lā Kūʻokoʻa, the day Hawaiʻi was recognized as an independent nation in 1843.