‘He lei poina ʻole ke keiki’. A lei never forgotten is the beloved child. ~ ʻŌlelo Noʻeau # 740
This Hawaiian proverb kicked off the first Hawaiʻi State Coalition for Community Schools meeting on September 21st, 2022. Approximately 50 Community School supporters united in the spirit of this proverb’s message, that every child in Hawaiʻi is beloved and no child should be forgotten. The launch of this coalition was a pinnacle of years of foundational collaborative work to launch and grow Community Schools across Hawaiʻi.
Hawaiʻi’s Community Schools began in 2019 at Kohala elementary, middle, and high schools in Kapaʻau on Hawaiʻi island. Partners in Development Foundation (PIDF) initiated the strategy to address opportunity gaps for Native Hawaiian students in Kohala schools, and placed the first Hawaiʻi Community School Manager, Ross Pagat, at Kohala complex schools.
In 2020, planned expansion of Hawaiʻi’s Community Schools began through the Resilient Communities, Schools, and Families (RCSF) project. The RCSF project is a collaboration between Ceeds of Peace (who employs the Community School Coordinators), the Hawaiʻi Afterschool Alliance, Papa Ola Lōkahi, Kamehameha Schools, HawaiiKidsCAN, and University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. These partners planned to launch five new Community Schools in rural and remote regions across three of Hawaiʻi’s islands. Three of these Community Schools launched in spring of 2022.
This collaborative partnership laid foundational roots for further systemic collaboration. A Hawaiʻi Community Schools working group of the RSCF partners, PIDF, and other collaborators began convening in April of 2021 to define Community Schools in Hawaiʻi. This working group believed Hawaiʻi’s unique cultural and historical context necessitated a distinctive framework for Hawaiʻi Community Schools. The working group partners, with facilitation support from the Hawaiʻi Afterschool Alliance, developed a Hawaiʻi specific framework:
Definition: In Hawaiʻi, community schools are innovative, thriving hubs of learning in which partnerships and collaboration create aʻo aku, aʻo mai, reciprocal relationships between learners and place, content and context, and schools and communities.
The Hawaiʻi Afterschool Alliance committed to initiate a State Coalition for Community Schools in order to continue the expansion of Hawaiʻi’s Community Schools. The Hawaiʻi Afterschool Alliance (HAA) was able to include support of Community Schools as their innovation project within their triennial grant application to the Mott Foundation. HAA recognized the alignment and synergy between afterschool programs and Community School strategies and had on their team a Community Schools expert, Jennifer Masutani, who worked previously for the Coalition for Community Schools at the Institute for Educational Leadership. HAA was already experienced at convening afterschool partners in advocating for afterschool programs and saw expanding their coalition building and advocacy efforts to include Community Schools as a natural evolution of their work.
The Hawaiʻi State Coalition for Community Schools’ September 2022 launch included supporters such as Community School Coordinators, Nonprofit partners, state legislators, and members of the Hawaiʻi Board of Education. Participants learned the context of Hawaiʻi’s Community Schools, heard from Hawaiʻi Community School Coordinators and leaders, and identified the unique assets each partner could contribute to advancing collaborative efforts.
The launch meeting closed with an opportunity for each participant to write a commitment to advancing Hawaiʻi’s Community Schools on a paper leaf or flower. These were added to a poster on the wall in the shape of a lei, signifying all of the partners and resources in the room coming together to ensure that no child in Hawaiʻi is forgotten.
The Hawaiʻi State Coalition for Community Schools is a network partner of the Coalition for Community Schools at the Institute for Educational Leadership (email@example.com). For more information on the Hawaiʻi State Coalition for Community Schools, contact the Hawaiʻi Afterschool Alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org