two staff

Editor’s Note: April 22, 2021—Project Kākoʻo held a second round of care package distribution for its teacher candidates on April 16, 2021.

More than 100 University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Education (COE) teacher candidates were recently treated to care packages through a pilot initiative called Project Kākoʻo. The gifts were assembled and distributed by COE faculty and staff, two chapters of Alpha Delta Kappa (Nu and Xi), and members of the Pearl Harbor Rotary Club.

care packages

Each student received two bags—one filled with food and drink items and another filled with pandemic safety supplies. Senior citizens at the Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center donated handmade face masks, which were enclosed with a note thanking the students for “entering a very noble profession and for choosing a career that has the potential positive impact on the people of Hawaiʻi and abroad for generations to come.”

food items

Kuʻulei Serna, director of the COE Institute for Teacher Education (ITE) Elementary Education Program, got the inspiration for Project Kākoʻo after her daughter, a freshman, received a care bag from UH Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

“These bags seemed like a tangible way of showing our admiration and appreciation for the way our students have persevered through this pandemic,” Serna shared. “We are also very grateful for all of the community partners, faculty, staff, students and retired educators who assisted us with safely organizing and packing. I especially want to mahalo the coordination efforts of Alohilani Okamura and Kristen Ferrer for this beautiful event.”

Okamura, a faculty member in ITE Secondary, was instrumental in securing donations and volunteers. She is a member of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary organization of women educators dedicated to educational excellence, altruism and world understanding.

“In the true spirit of aloha, Project Kākoʻo was proposed to acknowledge our teacher candidates’ commitment to the teaching profession and to provide support during COVID-19,” Okamura stated. “These goodie bag/survival kits were thoughtfully created and made possible through generous donations from more than a hundred individual and group donors.”

Okamura set up a Padlet post where participants could share messages to the donors. COE teacher candidate Ashley Wong posted, “Thank you so much to everyone who put this together and helped make this happen. The care packages, notes of encouragement and the individual name tags are all so sweet and cute! This will really help me to push through this semester. Once again, thank you so much!”

Thanks to the outpouring of support and donations, Project Kākoʻo will continue with a second phase in April, expanding and reaching more future teachers.

This effort is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.