Author Archives: Jennifer Smith

The Future of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Setting the standard for the care of the marine managed area.

Midway is best known as the location of the Battle of Midway, fought in World War II. Today it is the only place within the Monument open for recreation.

By Jennifer Smith

Once the training ground for celestial navigation, and the site for generations of Native Hawaiian practices of cultural and spiritual rights, the Northwest Hawaiian Islands make up nearly three-fourths of the Hawaiian Archipelago. Realizing the significance of the islands and the increasing threats to native habitats from invasive species and increasing outside interest in the area, the islands were recognized as Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in June 2006.

Two years later, the three managing agencies have returned to the Main Hawaiian Islands seeking input from local communities on a 1200 page Draft Monument Management Plan. The document provides a 15 year plan for the fully protected marine managed area.

“My concern is whether or not you have looked to the practitioners,” said Vanda Hanakahi, cultural specialist and chairperson of the `Aha Kiole Advisory Committee. “You need to talk to the people who have knowledge.”

Hanakahi is particularly concerned about the accessibility of the area to practitioners and Native Hawaiian fishermen. “Traditional practitioners need to be given special consideration.”

“We agree this should be preserved,” said Opu`ulani Albino, Hawaiian Immersion School educator, echoing the need to include more local knowledge in the plan.

Albino asked how much community feedback has been received, and suggested adding people from Molokai on the panel. She said cultural practitioners should be involved on every level because they have the `ike.

As a Hawaiian, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Superintendent ‘Aulani Wilhelm said she struggles with the need to have more Hawaiian involvement all the time. She thanked the community for “the most engaged testimony we have had by far.”

“I would like to see more of this talk in the school system,” said Molokai High School graduate Kawai Puaa-Spencer. “If it was, I would have gone to school more,” he said half jokingly.

Puaa-Spencer and three other `opio present stressed the importance of educating students on Papahanaumokuakea, and preserving resources throughout all of the Hawaiian Islands.

“We need to better manage our ecosystem,” said local fisherman Kekama Helm. He agreed that the area could be better managed, but said he doesn’t believe in no catch zones for Hawaiian fishermen. “We realize that with practicing comes responsibility.”

While only about a dozen community members attended the public meeting held last week Monday at Kulana `Oiwi, those who did attend provided well-received comments.

Mikiala Pescaia thanked the Papahanaumokuakea staff for coming to Molokai. She said the organization has been very good about returning to the island to host public meetings, and said the low attendance was a positive sign.

“If they’re not here, it’s a good thing,” Pescaia said, explaining that the plan must be a good one; otherwise the community would be there to say otherwise.

Nearly 14 representatives from Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), NOAA, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) attended the meeting.

Since the government declaration of the area as a recognized Monument, Papahanaumokuakea staff helped to reopen Midway Atoll, unify the permitting process, restore native habitats, and remove countless invasive species.

It took nearly 16 months of preparation to create an inter-agency jurisdiction that met the needs of all three agencies and even now, the plan will be revisited throughout the years to gage progress.

Testimony on the Papahanaumokuakea Draft Monument Management Plan will be received through July 8. Copies of the plan are available at any Hawaii State library, at www.papahanaumokuakea.gov, or by calling 808.792.9530.

To submit comments email PMNM_MMP_Comments@fws.gov or send to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 5-231, Box 50167, Honolulu, Hawaii 96850.

 


 

 


By Order of Kamehameha

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Kalaniana`ole Hall restoration breaks ground.

Thanks to the help of Staff Sergeant Lester Delos Reyes, 11 members of the National Guard helped with construction the first week of the project.

By Jennifer Smith

In 1937 by order of Kamehameha, the first gathering place for Native Hawaiians in the Territory of Hawaii opened its doors on Molokai. Kalaniana`ole Hall served as a place for Hawaiian families to care for the sick and provide the dead with a fitting burial.

The hall would go on to be listed on the State Register of Historic Places and serve as a clubhouse to support social gatherings. From community meetings and hula lessons, to martial arts practices and movie screenings, several generations of Molokai community residents have memories in the hall.

Unfortunately, over 70 years of hard weather and frequent use have deteriorated the building into almost disrepair. Luckily thanks to the continued support of community members and several organizations, the restoration of Kalaniana`ole Hall will soon bring the building back to its original beauty.  

A blessing held last week Monday marked the beginning of what will hopefully be somewhere between a three to five month restoration.

Kupuna of Kalamaula and members of Halau O Kawananakoa Helu Elima, the Molokai chapter of Hale O Na Alii O Hawaii and current owners of the hall, reminisced as Reverend Anna Lou Arakaki began the ceremony with a pule. Aunty Sheila Awana followed with a blessing for the building, which was also the site of her high school graduation.

“We are trying to bring it back to what it was like when it was first built,” said David Bayly, foreman for Stein and Son, Inc., the company hired to conduct the restoration. He said the completion date will be dependent on time and materials.

The company is trying to use as much of the original building as possible, but Bayly said the building is old and full of termites. “Another year or so and we would have had to bulldoze it, but I think we caught it in time.”

The Maui based company has done several other restoration projects, including Keomuku Church on Lanai, Pioneer Inn and other buildings on Front Street in Lahaina.

On Monday Stein and Son, Inc., brought in four more workers, and two local carpenters to assist in the restoration.

And with the help of Staff Sergeant Lester Delos Reyes, 11 members of the National Guard made a big dent in the first week of construction.

“We were fortunate to get involved,” Lieutenant Dale Balsis said. “We are trying to help out the community … so they have a gathering place.”

The National Guard members were here for one week on their annual training. According to Lieutenant Balsis this was their first restoration/demolition, they typically build from the ground up.

“It was really exciting for the guys,” to learn something new and help out the community in the process, Lieutenant Balsis said.

Mycrogen also donated a crew and backhoe to help speed up the work. Community volunteers provided meals for the crews last week.

“The renewal of Kalaniana`ole Hall means keeping the memories of past generations alive for the benefit of generations to come,” said Stacy Crivello, Molokai Enterprise Community (EC) president, in a press release.

The EC, also known as Ke Aupuni Lokahi (KAL), Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), Friends of Kalaniana`ole Hall, Lokahi Pacific, USDA Rural Development, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and Halau O Kawananakoa Helu Elima, were among the organizations who came together to make the restoration of the hall a reality.

“We want to go back to the concept of Native Hawaiians being presented to death with dignity,” said Billy Akutagawa, member of the Friends of Kalaniana`ole Hall. He said the restoration has been a long time coming, and is excited to see it underway.

According to Akutagawa a dedication was held about three years ago for the hall, but with only $100,000 and a large dependence on a volunteer based workforce, the restoration hit several stumbling blocks.  However, a license agreement between KAL, DHHL, and Halau O Kawananakoa Helu Elima now ensures that the building will finally receive the much needed care it deserves.

To date, funds committed include $550,000 from OHA through the efforts of Trustee Colette Machado, $55,000 from KAL, and $100,000 from USDA Rural Development. Plans for the restoration were prepared by Mason Architects, Inc., an architectural firm specializing in historic preservation. Maui Architectural Group, also with historic preservation expertise, has also contributed to the process.



Ex-Ranch Employees Get Back to Work

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

A fifth of laid-off workers have found jobs.

By Jennifer Smith

Months after the devastating closure of Molokai Ranch in April, displaced workers persevere in the face of a tough job market. With over a fifth of the workers with new employment, steady progress continues to be made in the effort to get people back to work.

“So far they’ve been in really good spirits,” said Alberta Patchen, manager for the Kaunakakai Workforce Development Division (WDD). The WDD is one of several government agencies busy trying to assist nearly 60 former Molokai Ranch employees find work.

Of the 98 employees on a list released from Molokai Ranch, 23 are back to work, 8 are still working for the Ranch, 10 haven’t filed unemployment claims, 1 has filed a temporary disability insurance claim, and 1 has filed a workman’s compensation claim.

However, back to work could mean anything from being on call, to relying on a previously obtained second job. The difficulty comes in finding long term positions for the displaced workers.

“The good thing about Molokai Ranch workers is that they have been employed for a while,” Patchen said, explaining that most displaced employees have strong motivations to get back to work. “We’re hopeful.”

Displaced Ranch workers will soon receive additional support from nearly $390,000 in grant money. Hawaii Department of Labor (DOL) received last week, a federal grant to help with re-employment services including skills assessment, individual career counseling and occupational skills training.

The grant is a “helping hand to laid-off Molokai Ranch workers, as they seek new jobs,” said Senator Daniel K. Inouye, in a press release. “Loss of employment, especially due to circumstances beyond your control, is a painful experience.”

The grant is expected to help about 60 displaced workers.

Molokai General Hospital has also completed a grant application asking the Hawaii Medical Services Association (HSMA) Foundation for assistance in paying former Ranch employees’ COBRA medical premiums for six months. The grant would assist employees with, or employees who have family members with chronic illnesses.

Returning to school is also an option for displaced workers who would like to enhance their resumes. The University of Hawaii recently released funds to help former employees of Molokai Ranch, Aloha Airlines, ATA Airlines, NCL America, and the Weyerhaeuser Corporation gain training in the classroom. The fund is effective until June 2009, and provides a one-time only 50% discount to the cost of tuition, up to a maximum of $500 per eligible laid-off employees.

“We are very encouraging to have them go back to school,” Patchen said. “But we realize they still need to keep their finances up.”

Patchen witnessed other historical hits to unemployment on the island such as the exit of Del Monte’s pineapple plantations and the closure of the Kaluakoi hotel, and said the best advice for displaced workers is to keep their spirits up and keep applying for jobs.

Timing can sometimes make the difference in getting a job or not, as application deadlines are often tight. The WDD tries to get the word out about work quickly, and then helps in making sure that applicants follow through. The goal is to get an interview, Patchen said.

In an attempt to make the application process as painless as possible, the WDD’s resource room is open Monday through Friday, 7:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Job seekers can visit the office any time and use the computers, copy and fax machines, and receive one-on-one assistance.

The WDD is asking employers who have job openings to please give them a call so that the opening can be listed. For more information call 553-1755.








Making It Big

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Making It Big

Molokai’s own goes pro.

By Jennifer Smith

Is there anything more pure and fantastic than a boy’s dream? How about when that dream becomes a man’s reality?

For as long as Ekolu Kalama can remember he wanted to be a professional surfer, but for almost just as long, people have told him he couldn’t do it. To those people Kalama says, "if it's your dream, it's your dream-and no one can criticize it."

After several years of hard work and trying dedication, Kalama made his dream a reality last May when he became one of the first Stand Up Paddle (SUP) surfers to receive a sponsorship.

SUPing is a newly popularized sport where surfers use elongated canoe paddles to propel themselves on longboards. The oversized surfboards allow SUPers to keep their balance and remain standing whether they’re on a wave or not.

Starboard, a famous board making company in the windsurfing industry, snatched up the Molokai born paddler and surfer in hopes that he will assist in designing a signature SUP board, and help to further popularize the sport.

To understand how a former Molokai High School graduate ended up on the beaches of Maldives testing boards and taking part in photo shoots the story needs to rewind two years.

Kalama was turning 30 in a few hours, and felt what he describes as a “mid-life crisis of sorts.” Sitting on Makaha beach, waiting for midnight to hit so he could jump in the water, he saw his friend Duane DeSoto playing with his kids.

Something about the image stuck with Kalama and while out in the water catching waves and contemplating his life, he stopped. "I said ‘this is the life I want!’"

"Everybody thought I was crazy," Kalama said, explaining how people reacted when he gave up one of the best jobs on the island, as a firefighter. Friends and family argued that the 10 day per month work requirement left him with more than enough time to surf.

But, Kalama realized he had to make sacrifices if he wanted to go all the way, and it would take nearly two years, and several tries before he would realize he made the right decision.

Broke and worn, “it didn’t seem like the doors were going to open,” Kalama said. The fire department gave him three years to go back, and every month for several months he filled out the paper work to return, but each time "it was like pulling teeth for me to go back."

Now with a sponsorship and a busy summer schedule that includes stops in Bali, England, California, Spain, and France, Kalama knows his sacrifices were worth it. "I feel like I have natural abilities God gave me," and I wasn't able to use them at the fire department.

Kalama credits his cousin Dave Kalama and infamous big-wave rider Laird Hamilton for introducing him to SUPing. "Laird gave me my first board and paddle" nearly two years ago, he said.

"I was surfing before I can even remember," Kalama said. And coming from a well-known family of canoe paddlers, "it was a common sense natural match for me."

"It's been my childhood dream to be a professional surfer," Kalama said, explaining how excited he is to be doing what he loves. His experience has taught him that you can accomplish your dreams, no matter how great, and he hopes to pass on this attitude to his two young sons.

A two-time World Paddling Champion in the Molokai-to-Oahu race, he said now he just needs to earn a surfing world title.

DOA Put on Spot

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Governor’s Advisory Council invites community to voice MIS concerns.


By Jennifer Smith

Community members continue to take issue with the management of the Molokai Irrigation System (MIS). Despite several strides made by the Department of Agriculture (DOA) to address recommendations from a state audit report released last February, the broken water system continues to operate with an unknown future.

In the midst of questions and contention the DOA has been able to cross off several items from its extensive to do list including taking an inventory of the MIS, and addressing employee safety issues. By the end of this month policies, procedures, and a state readiness/emergency plan is also scheduled for completion.

“We are pleased with the progress we are making” in terms of communication, said Duane Okamoto, deputy chairperson for the Board of Agriculture, during last Tuesday’s Governor’s Molokai Community Advisory Council (GMCAC) meeting. Okamoto and DOA Asset Manager Randy Teruya were invited to the meeting to give a presentation and answer questions from the council and community members on the DOA’s progress in the past few months.

Finance recommendations listed in the February audit were misleading, according to Okamoto who said some of the tasks such as tracking revenues and providing quarterly reports were already taking place.

Water Cutbacks
As of June 1, the DOA is mandating all non-homestead users to cutback water usage by 20%.

“None of this will affect the homesteaders at this point,” Teruya said, adding that it will prevent current non-homestead users from expanding planting during this summer’s expected drought season. Meters will be read every Monday morning to ensure that non-homestead users adhere to the cutbacks.

Before its most recent acquisition of Molokai Ranch land, Monsanto asked the DOA if it would service an additional 300 acres near Mahana. The DOA denied the request because water restrictions prevented service of the area.

Monsanto has most recently asked the DOA to increase pumping to the reservoir, but no decisions have been made at this time.

“It totally offends homestead farmers,” when they see the big sprinklers Monsanto is using, said Hanohano Naehu, Hawaiian rights advocate.

Two Thirds Representation
Other recommendations for the DOA came from last year’s Road Map to improvement meetings, which were created to address the tense relationship between the DOA, MIS Water User Advisory Board (WUAB), and MIS users.

“It’s been a really contentious year between the users, advisory board, and DOA,” homestead farmer Walter Ritte said during his testimony to the GMCAC. He came to the meeting with several requests for the council to pass on to the governor.

The most frequently mentioned problem falls on the lack of adherence to the homesteaders’ 2/3 right to water. The DOA says it recognizes the homesteaders’ 2/3 right to the water; however, “that water is never set aside for the Hawaiians,” Ritte said. According to the audit report nearly 80% of the MIS water consumed goes to non-homestead users.

Naehu and Ritte agreed that adding 2/3 homesteader representation on the WUAB would greatly improve the homesteader, DOA, and user relationship. Ritte also asked that the homesteader representatives have no ties to seed companies, that the WUAB continue meeting every month – instead of the proposed change to every other month, and to have DHHL take over the MIS, after it is repaired. “That would solve a lot of problems.”

The department is looking to the community and MIS WUAB for further input on how to address the audit report’s and homesteaders’ recommendation to add additional homesteader seats on the board, and on whether or not to adopt a more aggressive collections policy.

Unpaid Bills
Okamoto said unpaid water bills were reduced by about $100,000, but that around $200,000 remains outstanding. The DOA has written guidelines with a strict collections policy; however, Teruya said the department is asking for assistance to decide on how aggressive of a collections policy to take with delinquent account holders. Nearly 85% of the outstanding balance is owed by 12 of the 240 account holders.

If the outstanding debt was cleared it would help the DOA to purchase much needed items, such as a new backhoe, Okamoto said.

The audit report asked the department to create a “wish list” for the system. According to Okamoto last year’s wish list was essentially fulfilled, the list consisted primarily of operational materials and supplies such as welding masks and sockets.

GMCAC chairperson Janice Kalanihuia asked if the wish list shouldn’t contain bigger items such as a backhoe, or the new Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system that would increase employee safety by allowing control of the water system from remote locations.

The SCADA system was among the items listed in the DOA’s proposed Capital Improvements Project (CIP). Unfortunately due to budget limitations, the replacement of the electrical cable and air relief and blow out valves received priority. Teruya said the DOA will have to wait a couple of years for the SCADA system to be financed.

West End Utilities Update
GMCAC member and homesteader Kammy Purdy asked Okamoto for an update on Molokai Properties Limited (MPL) and the MIS, the former largest employer on the island announced last month that the company would abandon all water services on Molokai.

“We haven’t had any communication with them,” but they continue to pay their monthly bill, Okamoto said.

The next MIS meeting will be July 15 in the MIS office in Ho`olehua.

Kalaupapa Regulations Enforced

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Peninsula exposure gives public misinformation.

Despite signs telling visitors of the county regulations, hikers continue to visit Kalauapa unannounced.


By Jennifer Smith

An overabundance of recent media exposure for Kalaupapa has left the public with a misconception about the accessibility of the peninsula. Residents, administrators, and National Parks Service (NPS) personnel clarified during last Tuesday’s monthly meeting that Kalaupapa is not open to the public, except through permit or by taking part in Damien Tours.

The meeting also provided updates on preparations for upcoming developments and facility transitions that will occur in the next few months, including a visit from Senator J. Kalani English.

State lawmakers recently approved a resolution, SCR 208, that offers an apology to the people who were quarantined in Kalaupapa after being diagnosed with Hansen’s Disease. The resolution acknowledges the hardships and isolation endured by the residents of Kalaupapa, who were forcibly quarantined between 1866 and 1969.

Sen. English helped to introduce the bill and asked to attend August’s monthly meeting to read it to the residents.

Monk Seal Births
Kalaupapa continues to be a prime birthing place for monk seals, according to Eric Brown, marine biologist for Parks Services.

Five pups were born this year, which accounted for over half of the total monk seals born in the entire state. Brown said the mothers typically dwell in the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI), and when they become pregnant they head to Kalaupapa to give birth.

Since 1997, 38 monk seal births have taken place near the peninsula, which Brown attributes largely to healthy fish communities and the remote location. “You don’t see fish communities like this in Main Hawaiian Islands,” he said.

Unfortunately, despite promising numbers in Kalaupapa, such as the recent delivery of a pup by the youngest known monk seal mother, at four years old, the monk seal population in the MHI continues to be “pretty abysmal,” Brown said.

NPS workers reminded residents and visitors to remain aware of the monk seals presence and keep a distance, to keep the animals wild.

Closing Landfill
A state mandate has ordered the nearly full Kalaupapa landfill to close by the end of this year. With no plans to open a new landfill, NPS Facility Manager Steve Luppert has taken on the hefty task of figuring out how to manage the peninsula’s waste.

“It can all be done,” Luppert said, but added that “we are going to have some growing pains.”

The main focus is on recycling and composting as much of the area’s waste as possible. While recycling is now voluntary, come January 1, Luppert said everybody will be doing it.

Luppert and Student Conservation Association intern Brooke Jarvis are currently working on preparations for a new recycling and composting facility. Materials for the facility are expected to arrive on the July 19 barge. Three permanent positions will be added to assist with the new waste management program.

Other Updates
Brown has also been working with three other NPS workers to look into the archeological significance of areas near the Kalaupapa harbor.

“No decisions have been made” concerning dredging near the pier and harbor, according to Stephen Prokop, NPS Superintendent. However, Congress has appropriated up to $12 million for long term repairs, but what that will entail is yet to be determined.

Several residents have noticed people fishing and diving at night. NPS workers said they will enforce the law if individuals are found taking resources out of season.

NPS is also continuing to regulate hunting on the peninsula. New flags have been purchased to designate when and where hunting takes place, and to ensure that archaeological sites are not disturbed.

Prokop recently met with congressional staffers in Honolulu. “They continue to be very interested in Kalaupapa and supporting it in every way,” he said. The elected officials encouraged residents to write letters about issues they are encountering, such as flight difficulties with Pacific Wings.

The U.S. Coast Guard scheduled a “Safety Stand Down Day” last Wednesday. The day provided emergency situation practice for the coast guard staff and included the landing of a helicopter on the peninsula. Prokop described the day as a “show and tell of the coast guard’s capabilities.”

A trail crew from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will make two visits to Molokai this summer to work on the Pali trail switch backs and to assist with vegetation clearing.

The next Kalaupapa monthly meeting will be held on July 8 at 11:30 a.m. in McVeigh Hall.

What’s Blooming

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Artist returns to Halawa to beautify family land.

Kalani Pruet and Arturo Montoya take a break in the shade at the Halawa Heliconia Farm.
 

By Jennifer Smith

Tucked beneath the lush green vines and trees of Halawa Valley, lies a humble, but growing flower farm. The Halawa Heliconia Farm is the proud product of the hard work of an artist and a stock broker.

After meeting on Oahu over 15 years ago, little did Kalani Pruet and Arturo Montoya know that they would meet again on the shores of Molokai.

Staying next to Pruet’s family land in Halawa Valley, Montoya was reunited with the young artist when he came to Molokai in 1995.

Pruet was born and raised on Oahu, but inherited Halawa land from his great-grandmother. He moved to Molokai to set up a homestead and create a retreat. The trained artist thought the scenery would make an excellent inspiration for his landscape paintings.

However, with the help of his neighbor and friend Montoya, Pruet’s hobby for planting tropical flowers on the land quickly became a more industrious enterprise. 

“This was an opportunity to do something with the land,” that my family would welcome, Pruet said of his decision to begin the flower farm. While the land is “still a work in progress,” he said the change in the landscape is amazing.

“If it wasn’t for Art’s influence” it wouldn’t look as luxurious as it does, Pruet said, crediting Montoya’s support and expertise for much of the farms aesthetic growth.

After four years of back breaking work the grounds today boast well over 100 different plant varieties, with most in the heliconia or ginger family.

The green thumbed partners have big plans for the future of the farm, including increasing the use of more diversified plantings such as taro, pineapples, bananas, pumpkins, squash, and papayas.

As much as I can, I want to get the flowers out there for “public education,” Pruet said. “I encourage people to come down,” anytime between 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
 
Pruet is really generous with those who have local roots; he provides flowers for local events such as May Day. “My way of donating to that festive occasion” is to provide the bright colors.

The flower entrepreneur is also working on building up his commercial business with the farm. He ships his flowers anywhere in the U.S. and Canada and can ship internationally.

Pruet encourages interested spectators to come out and visit his farm, “I would like to see visitors really appreciate this place.”

For more information on the Halawa Heliconia farm visit Molokaiflowers.com.

Catch You Later

Monday, June 16th, 2008

New lunar calendar tells Hawaiians when not to fish.

is that many fish stocks function at small spatial scales,” Friedlander said. “The most effective way to manage those stocks is through local tenure and control.”

Tide Turning for Molokai Water

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Molokai Properties Limited fails in attempt to abandon water responsibilities.

By Jennifer Smith

State and county lawmakers are frantically trying to pick up the pieces after Molokai Properties Limited (MPL) announced it would abandon company-wide water and sewer operations by the end of August. The news has left 1,200 west Molokai customers worried about the possibility of losing water.

“The immediate worry is that it’s hard to get by without water. If they cutoff water, the (government) would have to declare a state of emergency,” said west end resident Gerry Anderson. “It would be an absolute disaster.”

But the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) released a statement on Thursday ordering MPL not to abandon its water utility services on Molokai.

Poetry Slam

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Kaunakakai students step up by bringing literary talents to the mic.


 

 

 

 

 

 

By Jennifer Smith

“You have nothing to fear from a poet, but the truth,” Mrs. Jenkins’ third grade class said, during last week Monday’s poetry slam at Kaunakakai School.

Second and third grade students from the school studied a wide range of poetry last semester with the help of kumu Alestra Menendez and `Anake Lauren Teriong from Kamehameha Schools and from their homeroom teachers Mrs. Arinoki, Mrs. Czajkowski, and Mrs. Jenkins.

The poetry slam night provided “a space where they can share what they have learned,” Menendez said. “We are always trying to push more – I was happy we had a chance to stop and watch the children enjoy their accomplishments.”

The students opened the evening with a lively Aloha song. The theme for this year’s workshops with kumu Alestra was Aloha, and each class began with a mele.

After the mele, the students took turns jumping in front of the microphone to share original poems with family and friends. From free verse poems telling where “I am from,” to beautiful Japanese haikus, most of the children memorized their poems, and several volunteered to perform additional pieces they wrote.

Parents, teachers, and community members also joined in on the open mic fun by sharing some of their favorite poems. One third grade mother, shared a poem with the audience and explained how special it was that the students were learning to do public speaking at such a young age.

“Poetry has been part of my life,” Principal Janice Espiritu said, after reading a poem from Shel Silverstein’s “A Light in the Attic.” “I love poetry.” The principal invited parents to borrow books from the school to share with their children.

As the evening concluded all of the keiki in the cafeteria were invited to join in on singing A Hui Ho.

“I’m really glad the kids enjoyed it so much,” Teriong said. “It gave them the opportunity to express who they are.”

“Anyone can do it – it just takes pen and paper,” Menendez said. “Poetry is one of the things you can use to let what is on the inside out.”