Photo: Waianae High School Students Pose with a Hawaiian Flag in the OHA Board Room
Shannon Nohealani Bucasas, a Hawaiian Studies teacher at Wai‘anae High School, coordinate the studentsʻ activities, including this gathering at the OHA board room. - Photos: Courtesy
Photo: Student holding a sign in front of the capitol building
Above, Keoni Reverio-Dietz.

Our journey of growing our student voices started in October of 2018 with a visit to The Office of Hawaiian Affairs(OHA). Our Hawaiian Studies class met with Aunty Mehana Hind and the Community Engagement Paia. Aunty Mehana taught us about how OHA betters the lives of Native Hawaiians through providing resources for beneficiaries, facilitating collaboration between community members, and advocating on behalf of the Hawaiian people. We left our visit inspired to learn more about growing our student voices through civic engagement and advocacy.

Photo: Students gather outside the Hawaii State Capitol
Kumu Hina Wong shares her mana‘o with the students.

In January we continued our journey of growing our student voices with a return visit to OHA, where we were introduced to the Public Policy Program team. We worked with Aunty Kamaile Maldonado and Aunty Jocelyn Doane, who engaged us in an interactive Youth Advocacy Workshop. Aunty Kamaile taught us the legislative process for tracking and passing bills, testimony writing, and presenting oral testimony. She also introduced us to OHA’s 2019 Legislative package which included 3 bills that caught our attention. *(just fyi: HB192, HB402, and a mental health bill were the ones we monitored)*

Photo: Waianae Students holding Signs
Left to right: Kala‘e, Kūlia and Ku‘uhiwahiwa.

Our two visits helped connect us to knowledgable mentors who provided important skills to grow our student voices and be more civically engaged. These tools empowered us to actively engage in the legislative process by attending numerous committee meetings to testify in support of bills that we were passionate about. We also attended Ku‘i at the Capitol/Opening Day of the Legislature, Hawaiian Caucus Day, Advocacy Day with the Hawaiian Civic Clubs, as well as floor sessions in the Senate and House chambers. All of these important connections helped us find our purpose and better understand the impact our generation can make to better our communities by using our voices, to advocate on behalf our people and Hawai‘i.

Our Hawaiian Studies class at Wai‘anae High School would like to mahalo our OHA mentors for teaching us about advocacy, engaging us in understanding the different bills, connecting with us through various learning experiences, and always feeding us with knowledge.

Student Voices

Ku‘uhiwahiwa Arakaki

My mentors helped me to feel more confident to express what is in my na‘au, share my mana‘o out loud, stand for what I believe in, and justify myself. Mahalo to all of our mentors at OHA for dedicating your time to helping us grow and become strong advocators.

Kahiwalani Kyle

I testified in support of HB402 related to the Public Land Trust because I believe it’s only fair for us (Hawaiians) to get the money that is owed to us and that is rightfully ours. One thing I learned is that although people may have differing opinions from my own I won’t let their opinion change the way I feel when I believe in something.

Kamālie Robello

One thing that I learned from my experience testifying at the State Capitol is that everyone does have a voice.

Keoni Reverio-Dietz

One thing I learned is that our voice matters. Every Legislator‘s office we visited (on Advocacy Day) was open to hearing what we had to say about HB402. This experience helped me grow by showing me that I have a voice in the decisions that are made at our Capitol and I feel that I can do whatever I put my mind to.