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Hawaiian Language Immersion Program thriving in West Maui

By Staff | Aug 11, 2016

Last week, the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program (HLIP) expanded to Lahainaluna High School, with the establishment of a classroom for ninth-graders.

It’s been a long uphill battle since the late 1990s to reach this pinnacle for the West Side Olele Hawaii ohana.

The HLIP community has been single-minded, united and purposeful, focused on one goal: to breathe the mana of the living language back into the culture with future generations of speakers.

With the Punana Leo o Lahaina preschool classroom recently re-opened and implanted on the campus at Princess Nahienaena Elementary School, immersion schoolrooms up Lahainaluna Road serve haum?na in grades pre-K to nine.

Growing at that rate, the first graduating class at Lahainaluna High School should be in 2020.

Congratulations! This was a landmark week to celebrate. Mahalo to the many leaders of the olelo Hawaii movement, including kahu, kumu, kupuna, makua, ohana and haumana.

The community can take a bow, too, with their support of fundraisers, golf tournaments, silent auctions, restaurant coupons and discounts, and concerts and fairs, to name a few.

There has been one leader, Lynn Kahoohalahala, spearheading the charge on the West Side for the past two decades – first, as the president of the Punana Leo o Lahaina parent group and now as the principal at Princess Nahienaena Elementary School.

Her mantra has been unchanged – “E Ola Ka Oleleo Hawaii” (the Hawaiian Language Shall Live) – and her voice has been steadfast.

She successfully lobbied and led a campaign in support of legislation, penned by her husband, Rep. Sol Kahoohalahala, to expand the HLIP up the hill to Princess.

In 2011, the Lahainaluna High School graduate (Class of 1969) was appointed by the state Department of Education to serve as principal of Princess Nahienaena Elementary School, and the fit couldn’t have been more perfect.

The HLIP program expanded and thrived, and now there are 114 immersion students attending school on the West Side.

In a Facebook post, Lynn Kahoohalahala wrote: “We have kept the vision alive for 20 years! I made a commitment to support ‘Olelo Hawaii when my Kai’olu was 3 years old. The right people in the right place at the right time. Our Lord is so good! Today was an answer to many prayers.”