School Fundraiser a Family Affair

Fun and funds raised at annual event.

 `Olana Chow holds up her watercolor "Unlikely Friends" at the fundraiser.


By Brandon Roberts

Ku Ka Lau Lama, the fourth annual Aka`ula School fundraiser, had the Hotel Molokai abuzz with community, ohana, and students. The night featured auctions, ono food and award-winning musical entertainment.

“These events bring us together as a school group and as a community,” said Liz Lum, Ku Ka Lau Lama co-coordinator and parent of two Aka`ula students,. “Parents come out and do what they can to keep the curriculum and program.”

Aka`ula is a private, non-profit school maintained by family contributions, grants, and donations. Family contributions add a dimension of ohana involvement into the education system, which Lum describes as modeling.

“The kids see their parents with a belief and interest in their education,” Lum said, adding that it helps them realize their parents care.

Lum believes volunteerism provides a level of responsibility and accountability for parents and keiki alike. This participation allows the ohana to contribute and have a sense of controlling their destiny.

“The curriculum has an unlimited ability to change,” Lum said. “They look at the child as an individual.”

Aka`ula student `Olana Chow, was one of the evening’s master of ceremonies. She said one of her favorite things about the fundraiser is the ability to participate for the school.

Chow contributed some of her own beautiful artwork in the silent auction, and was part of the Kids for Hire cleaning team in the live auction. Kids for Hire is a prime example of ohana volunteerism, as many students auction out their time and skills.

Raiatea Helm, local girl and Grammy nominee, Headlined the evening with accompaniment by Sonny Kalua on guitar and Danny Kiaha handling rhythm on the stand-up bass.

Annual tuition for a student is $6,000. The family contribution consists of $2,000, and 40 hours of volunteer time per student. Parents are responsible for the organization of all fundraisers, which along with grants, provide a majority of the remaining $4,000.

Before Aka`ula was established four years ago, the only middle school was in Kualapu`u.

Aka`ula co-founder and coordinator Dara Lukonen helped create the school to offer a choice to Molokai families. Though it is private, Lukonen did not want it to be an exclusive school. “We have not denied anyone a chance,” she said. By utilizing ohana volunteers, and fundraisers, Aka`ula is able to spread the annual tuition out. The idea is “to find alternatives, and not have families feel economically limited.”

Donations, like the signature fundraiser at Hotel Molokai, help Aka`ula to be a viable alternative for Molokai families with middle school children.

An environmental curriculum is at the core of Aka`ula, with an emphasis on balanced education including the arts and exercise at the pool and gym.

“Arts and athletics are important and often overlooked,” Lukonen said. She said this educational balance is even more prevalent now with the No Child Left Behind federal programs implemented in public schools. Arts and athletics are often the first programs cut if test scores are not concurrent with the federal standards.

Donors can earmark contributions, like the new school that Lukonen hopes will be ready by the next school year.

Aka`ula has 60 students, however the present building size can only accommodate 20 students per grade which has created a waiting list. The student body is roughly 70 percent native Hawaiian or part Hawaiian, which has qualifies them for grants through the Office of Hawaiian Affairs for the past three years.

Mahalo to the Aka`ula ohana volunteers and students, as well as the Hotel Molokai for a wonderful evening..

Donations can be made in person, by calling, or via email. Interested people can call (808) 553-3711 or send an email to


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