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Liko Rogers honored for perpetuating Hawaiian culture through the language

By Staff | Apr 2, 2015

Last week Thursday on Prince Kuhio Day, Na Kupuna O Maui and the West Side community gathered together in Banyan Tree Park to recognize Kumu (teacher) Liko Rogers (wearing lei) of the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program in Lahaina.

LAHAINA – Last week Thursday on Prince Kuhio Day (March 26) in Lahaina, Na Kupuna O Maui and the West Side community gathered together underneath the Banyan Tree to recognize Kumu (teacher) Liko Rogers.

Aunty Patty Nishiyama organized the event. She explained, “We recognized him on Prince Kuhio Day, because he is a prince of the Hawaiian language for Lahaina.”

It was a joyous event, with keiki dancing and singing in his honor.

Na Aikane o Maui leader Keeaumoku Kapu read a declaration of recognition signed by Mayor Alan Arakawa.

Na Kupuna gifted him with a hand-carved pahu (Hawaiian drum), and he received plenty of leis from his admirers.

Parents Harry and Marsha Rogers of Kapalua joined the celebration under the tree and were justly proud of their son.

“He is a wonderful man,” Harry said. “I’m very happy that he can do whatever he can to improve the community that we live in. With him, it happened to be the Hawaiian language.”

Kumu Liko Rogers, as he is now known affectionately, was born in Detroit in 1969. His birth name was Bradley David Rogers.

The family moved to West Maui in 1982, and he joined the Lahainaluna High School Class of 1987 as a freshman.

His love of the Hawaiian language was fostered at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

“I was required to take a language,” Liko told the Lahaina News in a previous interview, “and the language that I chose was Hawaiian, and the reason that I chose Hawaiian language was one: I live in Hawaii, and I thought it would be very neat to know the language of land that I live in.

“Two, and this is really the main one: I heard people speaking Hawaiian on campus all the time; they were using it at the college. I didn’t hear people speaking Japanese; I didn’t hear people speaking French; and I didn’t hear people using other foreign languages, but I did hear them speaking Hawaiian so I took it and fell in love with the language, (and) ended up changing my major. I graduated in ’94 with a Hawaiian Language Degree,” and later attended Chaminade University, where “I earned my Certificate of Education in early childhood and elementary teaching.”

Since then, Liko has been on a mission. He’s a passionate advocate of the preservation and advancement of the Hawaiian culture through the language.

His first teaching experience was on Oahu. He returned to Lahaina in 1998 and helped to open the Punana Leo o Lahaina Hawaiian language immersion pre-school at Waiola Church, where he taught for five years.

Princess Nahi’ena’ena Elementary School opened its campus to the Kula Kaiapuni public school Hawaiian Language Immersion Program (HLIP) in 2000. In 2003, he joined the faculty there, eventually finding his niche as a kindergarten teacher.

Kumu is sincere about his calling.

“There are several reasons that I am inspired to teach the Hawaiian language and culture to children and adults in our community. First and foremost, I feel that I have kuleana (a responsibility) to share what I was so blessed to be able to learn as I studied Hawaiian language and culture under my kumu at UH Manoa.

“I am inspired as well by the wonderful community of Lahaina with its rich history and beautiful people,” he continued. “I am inspired to teach because of my great love and passion for Hawaii’s language and culture.”

Members of Na Leo Kalele, the nonprofit parent group, are quick to voice their support of their kumu.

Jesica Cadiam-Standley has two children in the HLIP.

“My children didn’t speak Hawaiian at all,” Cadiam-Standley commented, adding, “To take children that don’t speak a language and in one year teach them a full language that they didn’t have any clue of is huge. That is a big feat in itself.”

Suzie Kauhane echoed Cadiam-Standley’s opinion: “Kumu Liko is the pillar of our program. He lays the foundation down for our children to have the knowledge of who they are being here in Hawaii, whether they are Hawaiian children or of American ancestry.

“It gives the children a strong foundation of the Hawaiian culture,” Kauhane observed. “We honor everything he does, and we honor what he says, and we honor his protocol in every aspect in and out of the classroom.”

The mayor further cited Liko’s skills in the signed proclamation read by Kapu: “Anyone observing his teaching talents would agree that Kumu Liko is an exceptional teacher. It shows on the adoring faces of the keiki in his classroom, and he takes that extra step to ensure that none of his students are left behind.

“He not only teaches the Hawaiian values that are so important to our native culture, he lives them,” the document observed.

Liko’s fervor goes beyond the classroom and Princess Nahi’ena’ena up the hill to Lahainaluna.

“In terms of a goal for teaching,” he confided, “I feel at this point I have fulfilled my personal goal of being a kindergarten teacher and establishing the foundation of elementary Hawaiian immersion education here in Lahaina; however, the broader goal for me is to see the realization of a Hawaiian immersion education from preschool through 12th grade in Lahaina.”

He was very specific and matter-of-fact.

“The establishment of the Hawaiian immersion program at Lahaina Intermediate School and Lahainaluna is a must. Lahaina is somewhat geographically isolated from the rest of the island. We need to be able to educate our students here in the community that they are from. Also, Lahainaluna has a Boarding Department rich in tradition; this makes it the perfect place to establish a strong Hawaiian immersion program, since Hawaiian immersion students throughout the state could come and board at the school to continue their immersion education.”

“He’s been the foundation of that effort for 17 years,” Na Leo Kalele President Tiara Ueki added, “and it is important to support and honor him.”