On Saturday, May 16, 2015, the McKinley High School Ambassadors put on a Senior (Citizen) Luau for 100 kupuna from Honolulu. The Ambassadors are made up of student leaders in the Center for Tomorrow's Leaders Schools Program.
It was the Ambassadors’ second year in creating an event to help combat loneliness and depression in Honolulu’s senior population.
“We wanted to raise awareness of the increasing percent of depression in senior citizens in the community, help build friendships among senior citizens, and give back to our elders,” stated Tianna Phan, McKinley High’s Student Body Vice President. “We hosted a Senior Prom last year, and to spice things up we thought, why not a Senior Luau!”
Leading up to the luau, students pitched their idea to a panel at Aloha United Way and Kahala Nui. Both organizations supported the project, which allowed the event to be free of charge for the kupuna. Donations were also provided by Ishikawa Photography, who set up a backdrop, took pictures, and gave one to every senior there; Meadow Gold provided dessert; Tony Silva and Pipi gave a large discount for their services; and Catholic Charities allowed the students to use their facilities free of charge.
Besides enjoying delicious Hawaiian food, student entertainment, and a lot of laughs from MC Tony Silva (daBraddahs), the kupuna walked away with new friends and contact information. The students created a buddy system to build relationships with seniors from nearby Kulana Hale senior housing, where they volunteer biweekly. They aim to extend that dynamic to the seniors.
“Although we have a gap in age, they are just like you and me,” said Tianna. “They're shy, outgoing, quiet, loud, hilarious people, competitive game players, who love to have fun! But they really like one-on-one time, having someone to listen to them.”
McKinley High’s Student Activities Coordinator April Nakamura called the event “awesome.”
“The kupuna were so happy to be there with the students. One of the seniors mentioned that it was the first time she had smiled and laughed in two months, since her son passed away,” said Nakamura. “Really, just watching them interact with the students and leaving with new friends to stay in contact with was the best part.”