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Lahainaluna senior Kaiwi Westbrooks honored as an Aloha ‘Aina Leader

By Staff | May 14, 2020

Maui students honored include Kaiwi Westbrooks (pictured) of Ke Kula Kaiapuni ‘o Lahainaluna and Kahiwa Vendiola of Kamehameha Schools Maui.

HONOLULU – Kanaeokana, the Kula Hawai’i Network, is recognizing 20 graduating seniors of the Class of 2020 from Hawaiian-focused charter schools, Hawaii Department of Education Kula Kaiapuni and Kamehameha Schools who were selected by their teachers and administrators as emerging leaders who embody aloha ‘aina leadership in their school communities.

Maui students honored include Kaiwi Westbrooks of Ke Kula Kaiapuni ‘o Lahainaluna and Kahiwa Vendiola of Kamehameha Schools Maui.

“A major part of Kanaeokana’s vision is to bring into being a strengthened lahui that grows and sustains future generations of aloha ‘aina leaders, and this award celebrates that vision,” said Mahinapoepoe Paishon-Duarte, co-founder of Waiwai Collective and member of Kanaeokana’s Ho’okele Committee.

Westbrooks’ teacher, Kumu Ioane Ho’omanawanui, who submitted her nomination, said, “Eleu ‘o Kaiwi i ka ‘ike ‘aina o Maui (Kaiwi displays intelligence for the knowledge of the lands of Maui).”

He added, “Mai ka mole ke kikowaena” – one’s source is within and unseen, unless you are able to observe from a dual socialization perspective, Native Hawaiian insight and Western epistemology.

“Notably, Kaiwi’s attributes go beyond the traditional classroom setting but within her approach to cultural/academic activities outside of class. As a Hawaiian Immersion student, she is exposed to many outside of classroom activities. Kaiwi’s ‘Aloha ‘Aina’ strongest attribute is her ‘mole’ – her source is her fearlessness to participate in our ‘aina-based curriculum no matter the location, the weather, the people and the time,” he explained.

“For example, on our Kalai ‘Aina (geography) field trip to East Maui, Kaiwi was the first to assist with preparation of our meals and campsite without being told; shared two eureka moments related to topics covered in class last fall; and ‘kupa’a me ka ‘olelo ‘ (primarily spoke in Hawaiian during our field trip). From a dual socialization perspective, she retained in classroom concepts and applied the concept directly to our outside of classroom activity by speaking in our native tongue.”

While the Class of 2020 will miss culminating events due to COVID-19, Kanaeokana remains committed to celebrating these young leaders of Hawaii – even from a distance.

“Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic in our midst, we are grateful that our Kanaeokana schools teach, reinforce and practice aloha every day. This has not changed even while students are learning from home. We are encouraged that Hawaiian culture-based schools and programs continue to connect students strongly to ‘aina and communities,” said Paishon-Duarte.

“In fact, we see a greater urgency to recognize aloha ‘aina and its importance in addressing some of the pressing problems that face our societies globally in these tumultuous times. We are growing the next generation to care for one another and the natural environment to provide sustainability for us all.”

Kanaeokana is a network of over 70 Hawaiian language, culture and ‘aina-based schools and organizations (preschool through university level) collaborating to develop and grow a Hawaiian education system that will nurture the next generations of leaders.

Learn more at kanaeokana.net.