By Dr. Kū Kahakalau
EA Ecoversity, a culturally driven higher education and career training program for Native Hawaiian youth and young adults, was named one of eight Indigenous Communities Fellows in the 2020 MIT Solve competition on September 29.
EA Ecoversity was chosen out of 71 Native-led submissions in the nationwide competition to share $100,000 in funding and support. This was the first year that the fellowship was open to Indigenous people nationwide.
Ecoversities are innovative post-secondary programs located in over 40 countries that radically re-imagine higher education to cultivate human and ecological flourishing in an effort to transform the unsustainable and unjust economic, political and social systems/mindsets that dominate the planet. The MIT Solve award was received as EA Ecoversity is launching its first e-learning course, and its workforce development partnership with Aloha Connects Innovation and Aloha Innovation Workforce Hawai‘i.
EA stands for Education with Aloha, an ancient yet modern way of teaching developed over the past 30 years. Ea also means sovereignty in Hawaiian because EA Ecoversity is designed to empower Native Hawaiians to thrive in their homeland by engaging in well-earning green careers and creating lifepaths that are meaningful and fulfilling. Each learner has a flexible, personalized learning plan validated by an e-portfolio that can be shared with potential employers.
Designed for the 87% of Native Hawaiians with no post-secondary degrees, EA Ecoversity supports all learners to reach their highest level. Building on the success of the Hawaiian-focused charter school movement, EA Ecoversity is grounded in the research-based Pedagogy of Aloha, that purports that caring, familial relations, a relevant curriculum and an understanding of one’s responsibility to knowledge acquired, leads to contemporary and traditional rigor and should be fun at the same time.
MIT Solve is an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a mission to solve world challenges. Solve is a marketplace for social impact innovation.
Through open innovation challenges, Solve finds incredible tech-based social entrepreneurs all around the world. Solve then brings together MIT’s innovation ecosystem and Indigenous Community Fellows like EA Ecoversity to fund and support these entrepreneurs to help them drive lasting, transformational impact.
EA Ecoversity is an initiative of Kū-A-Kanaka LLC, a family-owned, Native Hawaiian social enterprise, headquartered in Hilo on Hawai‘i Island. In October 2020, Kū-A-Kanaka launched their EA E-Learning program providing fun, culturally driven, hands-on, virtual Hawaiian language and culture courses to Hawaiian families made up of learners of all ages. These courses are free to EA Ecoversity learners. For more information visit: www.kuakanaka.com/eaecoversity.
Dr. Kū Kahakalau is a Native Hawaiian educator, researcher, cultural practitioner, grassroots activist, and expert in Hawaiian language, history and culture. Over the past 25 years, Kū has promoted the revitalization of Hawaiian language and culture, hands-on learning in the environment, community sustainability and Hawaiian self-determination in education and beyond through a Pedagogy of Aloha. Kū has founded and administered a number of innovative Hawaiian-focused programs. Her latest project, EA Ecoversity, is a Hawaiian-focused post-secondary program that transitions Hawaiian ‘ōpio to culturally grounded, happy, successful, thriving kanaka makua, and responsible global citizens.