Marshallese youth are awesome! They are kind and funny and smart. Unfortunately, most of the public narrative about this ethnic group is negative and it has impacted the self esteem and cultural pride of these teenagers and young adults. (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-pi6cU8m2A)
One way that we try to combat this is by honoring Marshallese middle and high school students who are thriving in schools all over O'ahu. In April 2019, we recognized 77 students who had earned a 3.0+ grade point average. They came from Farrington, Waipahu, Waianae, McKinley, Roosevelt, Stevenson, Kawananakoa, Central, Nanakuli, and many other schools. About 300 extended family members and friends showed up to cheer on the students. The pride in the community was palpable. For the first time in our 12-year history, the supporters also included a group of retired teachers who hand-made lei for each of the students.
In feedback forms after the event, a surprising number of youth reported that the event is the only time in the year that they learn about their culture outside of their home environment. The students wanted more of this throughout the year; not just the annual Spring event.
We are proposing an End-of-Semester Celebration that will bring together students for a day of cultural sessions like weaving baskets and mats from coconut fronds, singing songs, and learning about the jowi (clan) structure. We plan to host this event during the Winter Break at Ala Moana Beach Park. The timing coincides with the release of 1st semester report cards. This will be an excellent opportunity for us to congratulate students on their successes and to encourage/guide students who didn't earn the grades they wanted.
Funded by Oahu, HI (October 2019)