UH Hilo's Nawahi honored by NIEA for work in Hawaiian education

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Alyson Y Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 932-7669
Dir, Media Rel, University Relations
Posted: Aug 13, 2018

Senior students cut the ceremonial “lei piko” symbolizing the start of a new school year.
Senior students cut the ceremonial “lei piko” symbolizing the start of a new school year.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Ka Haka `Ula O Ke`elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language’s laboratory school is the recipient of one of the highest awards given by the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) for its work in Hawaiian medium-immersion education in Hawaiʻi. 

Ke Kula ‘o Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u will be awarded the William Demmert Freedom Fighter award in October 2018 in Hartford, CT. The award is an NIEA board-nominated award that recognizes an organization for its success and the positive impact it has on native student academic achievement. 

Ke Kula `o Nāwahīokalani`ōpu‘u is a laboratory school for UH Hilo and an extension of the Pūnana Leo language preschools, contributing to the P-20 mauli ola education system. Established in 1999, the school is located in Kea`au, Hawaiʻi and is one of the most unique schools in Hawaiʻi that operates as both a charter and state school within a single K-12 campus.

Kauanoe Kamanā, faculty at Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani and director of Ke Kula ‘o Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u, explained, “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. 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% of its students continuing on to higher education.” 

Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, Ka Haka `Ula O Ke`elikōlani’s director, commented, “From humble beginnings and through the tenacious commitment of its leadership, teachers and families, Ke Kula ‘o Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u has been a trailblazer in the advancement of Hawaiian medium education. William Demmert was a strong advocate of language revitalization programs, which makes this prestigious recognition a special honor.”