Category Archives: Adopt-a-Class

The Lamakū Project

Richard Ha writes:

I want to tell you what’s new. The Big Island Community Coalition (BICC), in partnership with ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, is kicking off the Lamakū Adopt-a-Visit project.

Download Adopt a Visit Program_2013_brochure

Lamakū means “torch of light.” This project will sponsor Puna and Ka‘ū students to go on a field trip to ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo. 

Here’s how it works: You make a 100 percent tax-deductible donation to ‘Imiloa, specifying that it’s in support of the BICC “Adopt-a-Visit” project. (You can specify that it’s for a certain Puna or Ka‘ū school if you’d like, but that’s optional.)

Each $5 donation sponsors one student. Public, private, charter and homeschooled students are eligible.

Donations will be applied to the ‘Imiloa admission fee.  As long as funds are available, ‘Imiloa will cover the cost of bus transportation to the Center. ‘Imiloa will coordinate the school visits, and will ensure that the donor receives feedback about the trip to ‘Imiloa they helped sponsor.

Eighty-nine percent of students in the Pahoa school complex participate in the free/reduced lunch program. This is the highest percentage in the state.

This is an opportunity to make a real difference on the ground. Thanks for your help.

How to donate


What Is That Circle Around Us?

Richard Ha writes:

A bunch of things are happening right now. They look very different, but see if you notice what they all have in common.

We are just seeing the tomatoes start to produce more in spite of the dark, wet weather. It’s the third week of February; and last year, too, our tomatoes’ rate of production started climbing in the third week of February. That gives me a good feeling, because I’d been looking around and anticipating this.

All around I see growth. Avocado trees everywhere are choke with flowers right now. The ‘ulu are starting to develop on the tree; the ones I’m watching are about baseball size right now. Everything’s growing and producing around us.

We spent Saturday in Kona at a get-together for Armstrong Produce and its farmers. We stayed there for several hours, talking story with everybody.

I was sitting next to Timothy Choo, a chef from Sodexho, which does food service for UH Hilo. Sodexho is a huge supporter of local products, they go out of their way to buy locally, and we had a big conversation about it. Sodexho is supplied by Suisan, also a big supporter of local products.

I was also talking to Troy Keolanui, manager of OK Farms. Ed Olson owns that farm, 200 acres of many kinds of fruit and other trees, and we help distribute their produce under our Hilo Coast brand.

They are located behind Rainbow Falls, and they have a tent, with chairs in it, where they can sit and look at the falls. They purposely set it up behind some bushes so it doesn’t disrupt the more common view of Rainbow Falls, the one that tourists look at every day.

Then we drove back to this side of the island and went straight
to Puna. Chef Alan Wong was there, and he was throwing a small dinner for the farmers he buys from here.

Alan Wong and I started talking about the Adopt-A-Class project. I
said, “Why don’t we do a broader Adopt-A-Class project this time, in Puna. We’ll take the whole district and go to each of the schools there, including the charter schools. Everywhere there are elementary school kids.”

He’s into it. When we did this in the past, Alan Wong gave a class at Keaukaha Elementary School where he showed the kids how
to use tomatoes, and passed tomatoes around and had some of those kids eating, and loving, tomatoes.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 3.13.20 PM

Then yesterday, the folks from Zippy’s came by the farm. They’re going to open up a restaurant at Prince Kuhio Plaza soon and we’ll be supplying some of their products. Zippy’s has a strong “support local” program. When you go into any Zippy’s restaurant, you always see signs about which farms they get some of their products from. Zippy’s also uses local beef. It’s a corporate decision to support local growers.

Do you see the common link among all these things? Everybody’s coming at it from a different point-of-view, but the common
denominator is that we are so lucky to live here in Hawai‘i!

It’s all about local food and making ourselves food-secure. Our tomatoes are thriving and plentiful; where else in the country can you grow tomatoes throughout the winter? Other food is growing all around us.

Armstrong Produce distributes the products of many local farmers and producers. So does Suisan. Sodexo buy that local food.

And Alan Wong, too, is very interested in supporting local farmers and teaching local school kids. He’s very aware of the movement to be self-sustaining and is always reaching out to teach kids about where they come from, how their parents used to live and how we can live now. He’s all about helping people be grounded, and he comes at it with the training of a very high-level chef.

People are really helping each other out. Everybody has to make money, but they’re looking after the next person in the chain. If you’re the farmer, you’re hoping that your wholesaler is caring about you and not just the retailers. Everybody is look after everybody else.

It’s the only way I can figure out that we can help our own workers. Because, of everyone, who’s going to protect the workers? I’ve got to do everything I can to protect them.

There’s a big circle of sustainability around us, and it’s one that’s getting bigger and bigger. It’s really incredible, though it’s easy to get caught up in our busy lives and forget to notice.


The Story of the Adopt-A-Class Project

When I first heard that the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) was interested in coming to Mauna Kea, I volunteered to be on the TMT committee of the Hawai‘i Island Economic Development Board (HIEDB). If the TMT was going to happen, I wanted to have a hand in making sure it was done right.

At the time, I was just a banana farmer minding my own business. But it was clear to me that I needed to learn more about the Hawaiian culture and the effect the TMT might have on the Hawaiian people, whose feelings about Mauna Kea were deep-rooted.

That led me to Keaukaha, the oldest Hawaiian Homes community on the Big Island, and to Keaukaha Elementary School, which is the center of the community’s social structure. Lehua Veincent was the school’s principal.

I thought I had a reasonable plan of action when I asked Kumu Lehua what he thought about asking the TMT folks to give Keaukaha Students five full-ride scholarships to the best schools in the nation. He looked at me, and in a gentle way he asked: “And what about the rest?”

I could feel my ears getting red. Indeed, what about the rest? That was a lesson I will never forget.

The TMT folks engaged HIEDB to do community outreach, and we had done that for about a year when they decided instead to engage the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa directly. But having met and liked the folks in the Keaukaha community, I continued to talk story with Kumu Lehua and then Patrick Kahawaiola‘a, President of the Keaukaha Community Association. Occasionally, I would drop by and give the kupuna bananas or tomatoes—whatever was in oversupply.

One day, I asked Kumu Lehua where the students go on excursions. He told me that they did not go on regular excursions; instead they walk around the community, because they did not have enough money for the school buses.

I thought that everybody went on excursions! Here we were in Keaukaha, the most Hawaiian of Hawaiian communities, looking up at the Hawaiians’ sacred mountain Mauna Kea where there are millions of dollars’ worth of telescopes, and the kids do not go on excursions because they cannot afford the bus?

I was speechless.

I thought, “This no can.” I called my friend Duane Kanuha, and we came up with the idea that we would start an Adopt-A-Class program. It would be designed like the Adopt-A-Child program one sees on TV, where for $25 or so, one could “adopt” a child, and the child would sent a note and photos, showing how his/her live improved.

We did some checking and decided to set $600 as the amount it would take to Adopt-A-Class so they could go on excursions. Three hundred dollars would be for the bus, and $300 would go toward entry fees for ‘Imiloa—Hilo’s world-class Hawaiian culture and science museum—should the teachers choose to take the students there.

We told the community about this, and they responded. We had all the classes from K-6 adopted, for both semesters, within four months. And they all started to go on excursions.

Chef Alan Wong was one of the first to get involved in the Adopt-A-Class program. One day he called me and said, “I want to go talk to the class I adopted.” This led to him visiting and presenting a class to the 6th graders. Leslie Lang wrote about it here on the blog:

…The principal of the school told me they never get people of such celebrity speaking to, and inspiring, their kids. Richard says that one of the teachers told him, too, that no one comes to Keaukaha Elementary to tell the kids they, too, can do it. He says the teacher had tears in her eyes when she told him that.

It was really an incredible morning. Read more

Alan Wong has a new book out, The Blue Tomato, which came about as a result of that visit to Keaukaha Elementary School.

The Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation heard about our Adopt-A-Class project and they took the idea islandwide. They were going to sponsor half of all students on the island to visit ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, but then the bus company heard about it and offered such a huge discount that instead they were able to pay for every student on the island, in every public, private and charter school.

During that one year that the TMT disengaged from dealing with Big Island folks, the feeling in the community was overwhelming that the TMT would be going to Chile, not coming to Hawai‘i. The TMT people were not successful when dealing directly with UH Manoa.

But Dr. Henry Yang, Chancellor of UC Santa Barbara and the new President of the TMT Corporation, wanted to assess the situation for himself. So along with his friend Dr. Jean Lou Chameau, President of Cal Tech University, he came to visit the Big Island.

I was at that meeting. Dr. Yang asked what I thought. I told him it would take a lot of work and they would need to talk to the community directly.

Henry is a “people person.” By the end of the meeting, I could tell he is the kind of person one could do business with on a handshake.

He and Jean Lou visited the Big Island at least 15 times after that, and because of the relationships I had built up in the Keaukaha Community with the Adopt-A-Class project, I was able to bring them to community meetings with the real, grassroot folks. To their credit, Henry and Jean Lou wanted to meet with even the most strident activists on the island.

They visited Keaukaha Elementary School four times. Can you imagine, the President of the TMT and the President of Cal Tech visiting Keaukaha School so many times that they became a fixture? As in: “Eh, where you guys going now? Come, come. Go eat!”

The relationship and the trust grew. Henry and Jean Lou started to understand that the lowest common denominator, on which folks on all sides of the issue could agree, was keiki education.

So one of the first foundation pieces they agreed to was committing $1 million per year for keiki education. It would start as soon as the construction permit was issued, and then continue through the construction period and for the life of the TMT. This is estimated to be 58 years.

Imagine, $58 million dollars for the education of our kids on the Big Island!

The TMT is applying now for the construction permit. If it is approved and we get the $58 million dollars for keiki education, it will be largely because people cared about other people, and sent kids on excursions just because it was the right thing to do.

My Pop used to tell me, “Get thousand reasons why no can. I only looking for the one reason why CAN!”


Adopt-A-Class, Year 4!

It’s the start of a new school year, and we are kicking off our fourth annual Adopt-A-Class project. This is where we ask if you’ll give a little bit to help students at Keaukaha Elementary School take field trips.

Why Keaukaha Elementary? Early on, when Richard became interested in the Thirty Meter Telescope, at that time “possibly slated” for Mauna Kea, he noted that the multi-million dollar telescopes atop the mountain sacred to many Hawaiians were not benefiting the Hawaiian community at all.

He focused in on Keaukaha as one of our most Hawaiian communities. He learned that students at the elementary school there only took walking field trips to sites near their school, due to lack of funding. He and his friend Duane Kanuha decided to ask the community to help.

It’s been four years since then, and truly amazing things are happening at Keaukaha Elementary School these days.

For a very long time, it was near the bottom of the list in all rankings and achievement. And when the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program started, Keaukaha Elementary was one of the first in the state to be put on corrective action – after what its principal Lehua Veincent describes as “years of struggling to meet state standards.”

Under his leadership and during his first two years as principal, the school met federal standards in 2007 and 2008, and in 2008 it was one of seven schools in the state to exit restructuring status under NCLB.

Kumu Lehua has had a phenomenal impact on Keaukaha. (If you know him, you won’t be surprised to hear that he’s quick to acknowledge the importance of his “dedicated and committed faculty and staff, and the collaboration with community and business partners”).

To Kumu Lehua, though, this whole topic is about so much more than merely academics. He talks about the change in behaviors and attitudes – social aspects that are not accounted for under NCLB.

“When we see 550 people come to our Open House, as they did two weeks ago, that’s powerful,” he says. “When we have 15 kupunas that come and have our children go and sit on lauhala mats and listen to our stories of Keaukaha, that’s powerful. When we’re able to take the entire school, 350 students, and have them chant and hula in unison, that’s powerful. Those are the things that set us apart from everyone else. They are our uniqueness, our spirit.”

He said they always have to remember the school’s mission: “That our children are proud of who they are and where they come from.”


In 2007, we did our first Adopt-A-Class campaign, and met our goal of raising enough for every class at the school to take one field trip both semesters. The cost per field trip per class is about $600 (that’s for bus, admissions, etc.); classes sometimes find ways to use that amount to take more than one field trip per semester.

Students have taken their huaka‘i, their field trips, to Hamakua Springs Country Farms, Waipi‘o Valley, Mauna Kea, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center and more. “Our 4th graders went up to Mo‘okini Heiau and spent a whole day there,” says Kumu Lehua, “learning the whole historical perspective of why it exists. It was a wonderful day for them.” See the links above for some past stories we’ve done about the kids’ excursions. Here are some of the students’ thank you notes.

Kumu Lehua says what’s important about the Adopt-A-Class program is taking the learning into other places where some of the skills and concepts they learn about in class are more easily visible, in a setting that has been discussed, learned about. “That’s where the application becomes a little more real,” he says. “Everything is so focused on reading and math, but not necessarily making connections between those skills and the outside.”

He says that Adopt-A-Class has brought about a lot of other opportunities for the school.

“People hear about Adopt-A-Class and they donate,” he says. “They tell other people, and people tell people, and you have a slew of people wanting to help, whether it’s with snacks, events, opportunities.”


These days the school philosophy centers on “Maoli Keaukaha,” the spirit of Keaukaha. Everything they do, explains Kumu Lehua, ties into one of five key points that make up the spirit and uniqueness of Keaukaha – genealogy, history, place, language and traditional practices.

“It’s the spirit of Keaukaha,” he says. “It’s what you cannot find anywhere else.”


Can you adopt a class? You or your company can donate $100 toward the adoption of one class (it gets grouped with other donations), or $600 supports the whole class. Your donation is tax-deductible and 100 percent goes to the school.

See the Hamakua Springs website for more details and how to donate.



Will You Adopt-A-Class?

RImagine, it’s already our third year doing our Adopt-A-Class program for Keaukaha Elementary School!

Here is an overview of why we started the program, and how far we’ve already come since then. In a nutshell, we started doing this in Spring 2007, when we realized that the students at Keaukaha Elementary School only took walking field trips, visiting places near their school, because there was no money for anything else.

For two years now we have sent all Keaukaha Elementary School students, the kindergarteners through the 6th graders, on one excursion each semester. Some of them visit ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, where they learn both about the science of astronomy atop Mauna Kea and also about their Hawaiian ancestors as powerful and successful navigators and explorers.

It costs about $600 for the bus and entry fees to ‘Imiloa, so that’s our target price per class per semester. If you look at our Adopt-A-Class website, you’ll see that one can donate $600 to adopt one class, or contribute toward the adoption of a class by giving $300 or $100.

There are no administrative costs taken out of your tax-deductible donation. Every penny goes to the class for its excursions.

From the Adopt-A-Class page on our website:

Here’s how it works. Choose an open “slot” on our chart that corresponds to the grade level and semester you will sponsor. Download the commitment form (pdf), fill out your information, and fax it to Richard Ha at 981-0756 or mail it to Hamakua Springs, 421 Lama St., Hilo HI 96720.  Please make your check payable to the Keaukaha School Foundation.

There are so many places to donate money, but this is a very worthwhile and specific one where you know EXACTLY where your money is going, and who it’s helping. We thank you for helping us help our community.

So we’re working on collecting donations for the fall and spring semesters coming up, and need some more help to make sure all students get to take mind-broadening excursions. If you can help, please click here. And thank you.


Adopt-A-Class, Year Three

Last night I sent in testimony supporting the Senate Bill that would give authority to the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s Mauna Kea Rangers to implement the Comprehensive Management Plan. (See below.)

The Senate passed the bill today, which was good.

But I kept on thinking about our Adopt-A-Class project, and wanting to make sure the Keaukaha Elementary School children can continue to go on excursions. Six hundred dollars adopts a class at Keauakaha Elementary School and sends the students on an excursion they would otherwise not take.

This is the third year we are seeking donations for our Adopt-A-Class program. At our website, you’ll see that a person or group can sponsor the whole excursion for one class ($600), or make a donation of $100 or more and contribute toward that class excursion.

If you can help, please look at the website and tell us which class you’d like to sponsor, and for what amount. There is more information about the process here.

In the meantime, here is the testimony I sent in. Among other things, it explains how we came to start the Adopt-A-Class program in the first place.

Dear Senators,

I am testifying in very strong support of HB 1174, HD3, SD2, the bill that enables us to malama Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea is our kuleana. We know what to do.

I am Richard Ha and I’m a native Hawaiian and a life-long Big Island farmer. We farm 600 acres at Pepeekeo. We have farmed bananas for 25 years and hydroponic vegetables for the last five. Over the years we have produced millions of pounds of food. We sell under the Hamakua Springs brand in the supermarkets. Nearly 70 of us work on the farm. We are concerned with food security and sustainability, especially since we sit out here on islands in the middle of the Pacific.

I would like to share with you how I came to be involved with issues related to Mauna Kea. Three years ago, when I was a new member of the Hawai‘i Island Economic Development Board, the Thirty-Meter Telescope people inquired about siting their telescope on Mauna Kea and the HIEDB formed a special TMT committee. I had strong feelings about the way it should be done: It should be done right! So I volunteered to sit on that committee. Before that, I was just a banana farmer.

When you talk about Mauna Kea you automatically talk about the Hawaiian culture, and when you talk about that, you end up in Keaukaha, the oldest Hawaiian Homes community on the Big Island (75 years). I found that the elementary school there is the center of the Keaukaha community.

I went to see Kumu Lehua Veincent, principal of Keaukaha Elementary School, with what I thought was a good proposal: “The TMT wants to come to the Big Island; what happens if we can convince them to give some kids from the community five, full-ride scholarships to the best schools in the nation?”

Kumu Lehua listened, and then he asked me: “What about the rest?” I could feel my ears getting hot and I felt kind of stupid. Yes, what about the rest?

Also, because the TMT had intentions to do things for the community, I expected the community would be receptive. Instead, I found that the Keaukaha people were very wary, wanting to know: “What do you really want?” They had been promised things many times before.

In the meantime, the TMT board decided to deal directly with UH system. But having met and liked the people in the Keaukaha community and elementary school, I went back again and again to talk story.

One day, I offered to sponsor an excursion to my farm. In the course of that trip, I asked Kumu: “Eh, where you guys go on excursion?” He told me they did not go. “No more money.” Instead, they walked around the neighborhood. I said: “What you mean?” He said, “The bus costs $300 and we don’t have enough money for all the classes.”

I was shocked. How could this be? There were hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of telescopes on Mauna Kea and there was no evidence of any benefit to Keaukaha, the most Hawaiian of Hawaiian communities?  This no can! We needed to do something.

So, myself, Duane Kanuha, Leslie Lang and Macario decided to copy the Adopt a Child template—where you pay $20 a month and the child sends you a letter and a picture every so often. We decided to do an Adopt A Class project so each class could go on excursions.

We figured $300 for the bus and $300 for entry fees to ‘Imiloa – the world-class Hawaiian culture astronomy museum. So for $600, people could adopt one class and send them on excursion. In four months, we had all the classes going on excursions both semesters.

The idea was contagious. Gordon and Betty Moore heard about the project and donated money to send all classes on the Big Island, from kindergarden to high school – in all public, private and charter schools – to ‘Imiloa. That was nearly three years ago. Now I hear they plan to expand this idea to the San Francisco Bay area.

And due to Kumu Lehua’s leadership, Keaukaha Elementary, a perpetually low-achieving school, had two consecutive years of improvements and came off the No Child Left Behind non-performing list. It was the only elementary school on the Big Island to achieve this distinction. Now they are role models. Imagine that.

Kumu Lehua told me this story: He said a teacher recently came in to interview to see if she could teach at Keaukaha Elementary. He rolled his chair back and told me, “She said it was a career move!”

I have attended at least eight public hearings about Mauna Kea, and many regular meetings of the Keaukaha Community Association, as well as meetings of the Kanaka Council. I have friends on all sides of the issue.

I see myself as a bridge between the shiny shoe crowd and the rubbah slippah crowd. I think that if we all can move toward the center a bit, we can make this work for all of us and especially for future generations.

It is no secret that I think that the TMT can bring benefit to the community. But when I first volunteered for the TMT committee, I insisted it be done right.

So we must malama Mauna Kea before we do anything else. HB 1174, HD3, SD2 helps to enforce the rules that the Comprehensive Management Plan proposes.

I started off by saying that we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. When I was a young boy, my dad told me: “There are a thousand reasons why, no can; I only looking for one reason why: CAN!

Richard Ha, President, Hamakua Springs Country Farms


Adopt-a-Class, Then & Now

I want to recognize the people who made it possible for Keaukaha Elementary School kids to go on excursions last year.

We started our Adopt-a-Class program in the Spring of 2007, when I learned that Keaukaha Elementary School didn’t have the money to take its students on field trips. My friend Duane Kanuha and I had the idea to ask people in the community to sponsor the kids on field trips to the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center and wherever else the teachers wanted to take them.

These folks got on board solely because it needed to be done. There were no ulterior motives, and nobody did it for recognition or anything. It was just something that needed to be done, and they felt like doing it. Thank you to this group of people who got our Adopt-a-Class program off the ground:

Kindergarten – John and Linda Tolmie; Virginia Goldstein

First grade – Hawaii Island Economic Development Board; Sonia Juvik; Brad Kurokawa

Second grade – Anonymous; Leslie Lang & Macario; Dan Nakasone; Kama‘aina Backroads; Kee Han & Vivienne Seaver Ha; and the Managers at Alan Wongs

Third grade – Anonymous (2); Lance Duyao in memory of his mom Audrey

Fourth grade – Sydney & Aileen Fuke; Yamanaka Enterprises

Fifth grade – Tracy & Kimo Pa; AstroDay Institute

Sixth grade – Richard & June Ha; Duane Kanuha; Alan Wong; Alan Ikawa

All during the last school year we got thank you notes with great, colorful drawings telling and showing us where the classes went on their excursions.

Now it’s the second year, and many of our same donors have given again.

And something else exciting has happened, too. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation heard about our program, and pretty soon they decided to provide funding so that 50 percent of the students on the Big Island could visit ‘Imiloa with their school over the next two years. When the bus companies heard about it, they negotiated such low rates that the funding was enough for all Big Island students – public, private and charter – to visit the cultural and astronomy center.

And the Moore Foundation is now considering doing a similar program in the San Francisco Bay area, as well.

Now, almost unbelievably, it’s possible we might be able to take it even a step further. The Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) project, which might be built atop Mauna Kea, comes with a serious commitment to giving back to the island. We at the Hawai‘i Island Economic Development Board have made it clear that this telescope is welcome here only under strict guidelines, and if our people benefit. One benefit? The TMT is committed to funding educational opportunities – but has said it would leave the actual administration and direction of the educational funding up to the community.

The TMT could take our simple program and run with it. Take it to a much higher level.

This is an opportunity to get away from our reliance on tourism, and to educate our children and their children in subjects that will help them lead sustainable lives here. This is one of the reasons I support the Thirty-Meter Telescope. It could really make a substantial difference in lives of our Big Island children for generations to come.


Keaukaha Comes to the Farm

Lehua Veincent, principal of Keaukaha Elementary School, brought his teachers and staff to the farm on Friday.

They arrived in a big yellow school bus, and then everybody gathered outside the office in a loose circle while Kumu Lehua (in the orange shirt) chanted.

And then the tour started. Richard spoke a little, telling how they decided to move the farm to Pepe‘ekeo and talking about the significance of the resources here in helping them decide.

He led a tour of the tomato houses, and explained that they look very simple “but a lot of thought went into that simple design.” He spoke a bit about how they operate.


Someone asked about organics, and Richard said something I found interesting. He explained: “Our objective is to feed as many people as we can, the best we can. Like the ahupua‘a system the Hawaiians used to have – what works, works. We try to use the best technology available in the smartest way possible.”

Charlotte Romo, the farm’s greenhouse expert, elaborated, saying the farm “doesn’t want to get stuck in a label of ‘organic.’” She pointed out that when they have to spray, they use the same products organic growers use. And that she scouts each of the more than 100 tomato houses every single week to check not only what insects are present, but at what stage of development. She pointed out that what kills larvae isn’t what works on an older insect, and that they spray only for what is present. “We don’t want to just spray all houses the same,” she said.


While we toured the packing house and the banana operation, I had a chance to talk a bit with Kumu Lehua.

Keaukaha Elementary  School


I learned that Keaukaha Elementary is the only school on this island to have moved out of the federal “No Child Left Behind” restructuring.

Kumu Lehua told me, “Our school learns differently. Without the trips (provided by community members through Adopt-a-Class), I don’t think the academics would have gone up. For us it’s about getting them out. Before, there was a moratorium, you couldn’t take the kids out,” he said. “But that’s how our kids learn.”

Just before they brought out the lunches they’d brought for all of us, Kumu Lehua spoke. He explained what the school’s connection with Hamakua Springs has meant.

“Three years ago,” he said, “when Richard called me, it was because of Mauna Kea. I was fortunate to talk story with him. When I came to Keaukaha School, that connection became important to the children.

“I want to mahalo Richard and June,” he said. “They’ve meant a lot to the school, though a lot of people outside the school don’t know it. If it wasn’t for last year, there are things we wouldn’t have been able to experience, especially the excursions.”

He explained that before they came to the farm that morning, they had had three community kupuna (elders) come in and speak to them. He motioned to his staff. “You heard our kupuna say, ‘At one time Keaukaha School was not one to be recognized.’”

“Mahalo to Richard and June for being there,” he said.


In Good Standing!

I was so happy to receive this email a couple days ago. It’s from Lehua Veincent, principal of Keaukaha Elementary School. That’s the school we work with through our Adopt-a-Class program.

Kumu Lehua announced:  It is my honor and my privilege to announce that Keaukaha School has MET Adequate Yearly Progress for SY 2007-2008 as announced by the Department of Education yesterday.

This second year progress has moved the school out of RESTRUCTURING STATUS into IN GOOD STANDING, UNCONDITIONAL!

On Friday, the local paper had a sub-headline: “31 of 42 Big Island Schools fail to make the grade.” Keaukaha School was one of the 11 schools that passed.

For as long as I can remember, 40 years at least, it was assumed that Keaukaha kids had a hard time doing schoolwork. Or maybe some people were assuming even worse.

That has now changed forever. Keaukaha Elementary has proved itself a role model as measured by modern methods.

Last year at this time, I heard whisperings that Keaukaha Elementary School had made progress with their ratings, and that with one more year of good results it would be removed from the list of schools to be restructured. Was it true? People were asking: could it be? Some were in tears.

A year later, and we have this incredible announcement.

It is much, much more than just an announcement. I feel like a big weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I can only imagine what it must mean to the community, teachers, staff and especially to KUMU LEHUA.

Read the whole announcement, from Kumu Lehua Veincent, below:

To members of the Keaukaha Community Association, Keaukaha School Foundation, Keaukaha Parent-Teacher Association, Keaukaha School Community Council, Queen Lili’uokalani Children’s Center, Kamehameha Schools, Ke Ana La’ahana PCS, Hamakua Springs, INPEACE/SPARK, and UH-Department of Education!

It is my honor and my privilege to announce that Keaukaha School has MET Adequate Yearly Progress for SY 2007-2008 as announced by the Department of Education yesterday.

This second year progress has moved the school out of RESTRUCTURING STATUS into IN GOOD STANDING, UNCONDITIONAL!

We take one year at a time with new students, new attitudes, new behaviors, and new ways of learning guiding our next action step. We continue to build upon this dualistic approach to learning in not only maintaining our stance in achieving the standards set forth in our educational realm but also a standard set forth by our own kupuna, ‘ohana, and the history of a unique place of setting – our beloved Keaukaha. We move forward by looking backwards! We move forward with humility yet with focus and strength! We move forward with pono!

As business and educational partners to Keaukaha School, you have all kokua by embracing Keaukaha School and the many ways of learning that honors genealogy, history, and place! Your unconditional aloha to all of our keiki here at Keaukaha School is acknowledged and appreciated! The cliché that “we couldn’t have done it without you” extends farther — your support establishes the foundation from which learning takes place and empowers a community to do what is pono for all that live here!

I honor you, our faculty and staff, our ‘ohana, and our community.

Please share with your constituents at your respective agencies this voice of aloha and mahalo!

Me ke aloha nui ia ‘oukou a pau!

na’u, na Kumu Lehua


Mahalo from the Second Graders

More young visitors and more sweet thank yous! Second graders from Keaukaha Elementary School and the Adopt-a-Class program came to visit the farm recently, and then big packets of thank you notes arrived.

The students each wrote individual thank you notes. Several of them, like Tiani, below, commented on the “man who chopped the banana tree fast.”

I wasn’t present and I don’t know who demonstated chopping down the bananas, but he made quite an impression. Look at Caleb’s great illustration!


Kaimana picked up something about the importance of “sustainability.” Excellent!


And check out what Makena learned! (I circled the part I’m referring to.) Richard’s message got through.

It’s the message he talks about everywhere he goes, to every student he speaks to. When I hear him, I think, “If even just one of these kids really hears that and internalizes it and remembers it, what a difference it could make to their entire life.” It looks like Makena heard it.


They also sent a collage of photos. Here’s Richard and his daughter Tracy with the kids.


And the students.