children posing for a picture
Cohort from Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu (2017).

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo’s Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language’s laboratory school received one of the highest awards given by the National Indian Education Association for its work in Hawaiian medium-immersion education.

Ke Kula ʻo Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu is a laboratory school for UH Hilo and an extension of the Pūnana Leo language preschools. The school will receive the William Demmert freedom fighter award, which recognizes an organization for its success and positive impact on native student academic achievement.

“From humble beginnings and through the tenacious commitment of its leadership, teachers and families, Ke Kula ʻo Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu has been a trailblazer in the advancement of Hawaiian medium education,” said Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani’s director. “William Demmert was a strong advocate of language revitalization programs, which makes this prestigious recognition a special honor.”

Established in 1999, Ke Kula ʻo Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu is located in Keaʻau on Hawaiʻi Island and operates as a K–12 charter and state school.

“Nāwahī is designed for families, teachers and staff who have chosen to speak Hawaiian as the first and main language of the home, and also for those who are in the process of establishing Hawaiian as the dominant language of the home,” said Kauanoe Kamanā, faculty at Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani and director of Ke Kula ʻo Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu. “Academics and global learning are developed and applied through economic, social and cultural interaction with the broader world. Nāwahī is a model for indigenous language and academic success with over 85 percent of its students continuing on to higher education.”

For more read the UH Hilo’s news release or UH Hilo Stories.