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Monday, October 28, 2019

Keiki encouraged to 'stay in the light' at Molokai Social Justice Youth Summit

Educators, students, families, and community partners gather for inaugural event

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

Keiki were at the forefront of the first-ever Molokai Social Justice Youth Summit, organized and funded by the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

The inaugural event took place Oct. 26 at Kulana Oiwi, and featured community organizations, student presentations, interactive keiki activities, and keynote speaker Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a cultural practitioner and community leader.

Summit chair Emilio Macalalad, a science teacher at Molokai High School, explained the mission behind it: "Right now there's this wave of socio-emotional learning that needs to be addressed, because we need to be for our students, more than just what's in a textbook, but be there and love them and care for them, so they can be the best that they can be."

This year's theme was "Stay in the Light," to emphasize the message that no matter how dark life may seem, there will always be hope, support, and light.

Representatives from the Molokai Child Abuse Prevention Pathway and Ka Hale Pomaikai took part in a panel that addressed sexual and substance abuse, mental health, and suicide. Students also created posters, filmed videos, and took part in presentations that included chants, music, and slam poetry, to share their views on these subjects.

"The community came together for a cause of preventing sexual abuse, sexual violence, and just understanding that no matter what religion, creed, sexual orientation, gender, that we're all one community. We're all one nation. We're all one state—and I think that's really important," said Jalen Kalama, a senior at Molokai High School who emceed the event. "I know several people, friends, family, who have been through sexual violence, and to have the community and HSTA put together an event like this, it's almost like a void has been filled, because I get to finally see some change happening and the community be more knowledgable about it, and it's just amazing that it's happening on Molokai and that we're going to have more for many years to come."

Fellow emcee, Ashawna-Leigh Davis, Molokai High School junior class president, added, "I think that it was good that young children could see, because I never learned about this stuff until I hit middle school, and I think it was just very eye-opening."

Wong-Kalu, well-known in the community as Kumu Hina, focused her message on youth—to tell them that "they possess the incredible capacity for greatness." That message was emphasized when she called them on stage to sing her mele, "Ku Haaheo e Kuu Hawaii."

"They can't just let those moments in time where somebody may have said something or done something that makes them feel less than, or makes them feel unable to do or unable to be a success," Wong-Kalu said. "When life gets rough, keep going, and if you don't succeed at it the first time around, keep going. Pick yourself up and keep going."

She added, "They don't have to be the prominent person in the community. They can be the success in what they do at home, and I hope that they'll take that message and allow themselves to be even more confident for it."

Click here for a photo gallery of the event.

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