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Raising Funds to Open Doors

By Jack Kiyonaga, Reporter 

Photo by Jack Kiyonaga.

Thirteen promising Molokai High School Students are one step closer to their goal of traveling to visit East Coast colleges and career sites. The Molokai community came out to help them get there at a fundraiser last Saturday. 

Molokai College and Career Club (CCC) has been taking MHS students to the mainland for college visits for the past nine years. 

The trips are largely the brainchild of MHS teacher Ric Ornellas. Ornellas, a Molokai native, spent years of his life living in New York City following a college education at Middlebury College.  It has been his goal to expose Molokai students to broader education potentials and possibilities. 

“It’s a two way street,” explained Ornellas. Molokai students can have “the opportunity for a world class education, but they also bring something to the table.” 

That “something” is the ethics of Molokai and knowledge of indigenous practices and systems, explained Ornellas.

Ornellas recounted a Molokai CCC visit to Yale, where the Yale Dean interviewed MHS students. The dean expressed amazement at the understanding of community that MHS students possessed. In such a way, MHS students are not just leaving Molokai for further education but bringing the aloha of Molokai to help educate the world. 

Through these trips, “students learn about college, but they also learn invaluable real -world skills like navigating diverse cultures, etiquette, safety, professional interactions and public speaking,” said MHS Principal Katina Soares. 

This focus on post-secondary school success runs in-conjunction with the recent shift to college and career academies at Molokai High School. This new academy model provides students with “a high school career pathway, similar to a college major, learning the knowledge skills and certifications” in a certain area of study, explained Soares. 

Molokai CCC acts as a vehicle by which students can gain exposure to their college and career options. The club has a record of real success. Its student alumni have joined the ranks of universities like Harvard, Brown, Cornell, Wesleyan, Northwestern, Pomona, University of San Francisco, Willamette and UH Manoa. 

Photo by Jack Kiyonaga.

Saturday’s fundraiser, called I Aloha U, took place at the Molokai Community Health Center and featured a dinner, silent auction, lucky number draw and performances by students and other musicians including the celebrated Maui-based wahine trio Ahumanu. Tickets for the event ranged from $50 to $100, depending on the meal that was purchased. 

The night focused heavily on MHS students themselves. MHS students manned the (non-alcoholic) bar, acted as enthusiastic MCs, auctioned off their own raffle baskets and performed a wildly entertaining talent show.

And while these college educations and experiences will happen outside of Molokai, the aspirations of the club remains Molokai-focused. 

“Our hope is that students will go out and experience what the world has to offer but bring that knowledge and experience back to Molokai and benefit the community,” explained Soares.

Molokai CCC’s upcoming East Coast trip is scheduled for this October. The trip will be based in New York City with planned visits to schools such as NYU and Columbia. Molokai residents can continue to support these students by keeping an eye out for future fundraiser events. 


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