E Ola Pono winners cultivate positive school culture


The 11th annual E Ola Pono campaign honors student- and teacher-led support programs that foster and promote belonging, care for each other and the environment, and positive school culture. Eight schools earned recognition and monetary awards.

The winners of 11th annual "E Ola Pono Campaign," a cultural response to the problem of bullying in schools, have been announced. The campaign, which runs from August through March, encourages students to initiate and lead programs that promote peace and respect in their schools and communities. Students are challenged to design projects that will actively help their peers “grow pono.”

Jack and Kim Johnson's ‘Ohana Charitable Foundation, which supports environmental, art, and music education, provided the cash prizes of $1,000 for first place winners and $500 for second place. The elementary category was especially strong this year and a third award of $250 was given. Administration of the campaign is supported through U.S. Department of Education Native Hawaiian Education grant funds. 

“This year’s winners have again demonstrated how imaginative thinking and well organized and implemented efforts can promote positive attitudes and outcomes in our schools and communities,” said E Ola Pono Campaign coordinator Sara Ka‘imipono Banks.

The winners are:

Elementary School Division 

1st Place (tie) Blanche Pope Elementary

Blanche Pope’s Pono campaign was spearheaded by students who wanted to be māla (garden) experts and dedicated their after school time to be a part of the Ka Māla Lani Garden Club. Activities included field trips to local farms to learn growing techniques, hosting several community garden parties, and presenting their work and expertise at the 2017 Schools of the Future conference and the “We Grow Hawai‘i” Conference in 2018. Lily Utai, the 4th grade teacher and advisor for Pope’s campaign, reflects, "E Ola Pono reminds us that in life we must do our part, to choose the right ways in caring for our Earth, mālama honua.” 

1st Place (tie) Ka‘ewai Elementary

Faith Aiu, the Hawaiian Studies teacher and advisor of Ka‘ewai Elementary’s E Ola Pono Campaign, facilitated the Stream Team students, families, and Kalihi community to live pono by restoring the school stream. “The keiki have grown tremendously as their own teachers and parents comment on the growth of the children by demonstrating positive behaviors towards others and the environment. Most of the keiki have increased test scores, attendance, and most of all pride in themselves, our school and our community,” reflects kumu Aiu. 

2nd Place (tie) Ben Parker Elementary

The "Classroom Without Doors" project aimed to help Ben Parker students who were struggling with academics and behavioral issues. Pono Campaign advisor Lorraine Pelekai states that “this project is based on self-sustainability where we are integrating science, math and language arts with a hands-on approach. Using a curriculum generated by students, they started vermi-compost, hydroponics, raised beds and aquaponics. The students are learning to build relationships with peers and adults.” 

2nd Place (tie) Makaha Elementary

SHOCK – Students Helping Our Community with Kindness — consisted of students sign waving and sending good morning well wishes to their classmates. Posters with positive messages were put up around the school, culminating with a Kindness Tree. The Kindness Tree was an interactive display where anyone — students, families, teachers — can pick a fruit from the tree and write a positive message and place it back on the tree. “Not only have students been able to see the ways their project has affected others, it challenged them to show kindness every day. I've watched shy students develop more confidence, and witnessed students discover that they can be leaders and problems solvers,” reflects Fredeelyn Freeman, the SHOCK project advisor. 

3rd Place Kohala Elementary

Kohala Elementary students were concerned about sad and terrible things happening in our world. The students in the after school program decided to “live pono and show aloha at their school.” Johnelle Kainoa, the 21st Century Program leader and Pono Campaign advisor, helped the students produce a video to be the change they want to see. The students reflected that, “We have become the leaders and the ones who help out other students to take care of each other and be a Pono leader. Our teachers are very proud of us and look to us to be alaka'i, or monitors, around campus.” 

Middle/Intermediate School Division

1st Place Ewa Makai Middle School

E Ho‘opono, the Ewa Makai Middle school campaign, guided the student leadership team to foster pono with aloha, emphasizing morality, ethics and building respect and righteousness. Vanessa Ching, leadership advisor, reflects, after the E Ho‘opono campaign, “which promoted acceptance and kindness, we were able to recognize changes that we didn’t think could happen prior to the campaign. We were absolutely astonished that our campaign was able to influence our entire student body (1,000 students) to be respectful and mindful of others, especially their future high school classmates and community partners that provide endless support.” See video, below.

2nd Place Washington Middle School

Washington Middle’s Pono Campaign started with students making Christmas ornaments and cards for the children of Puerto Rico after a devastating hurricane. Student description: "The definition of pono is righteousness, but to us pono means to have hope, that there’s always a positive if something goes wrong. It also means purpose to us, to give hope to those who lost it. We feel that our Kupa‘a team at Washington Middle School fits the definition of pono. Joyce Brubaker, advisor of Kupa‘a, states, “These students organically created a year long journey of pono, one that continues to evolve and grow. They are aware of their ability to help or support people suffering, how that aloha can make a positive impact, and we now see them not shying away from helping but stepping up, offering to help. They know the value of doing pono, in both the sending and receiving of it." 

High School Division

1st Place Farrington High School

The Friends Program at Farrington High continues to do exceptional work to break down barriers between students with and without disabilities. Educational Assistant Evelyn Utai, advisor to the Friends Program, noted that "students in the LifeSkills program are not shoved to one side of the school and forgotten about. We are involved in pep rallies and performances, and when our students walk around they are identified by their name and they feel good. They feel that they belong." 


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