ʻAuhea ʻoukou e nā hoa makamaka ma kēia huakaʻi e ʻimi ʻia nei ke ao o ka naʻau! Eia mai au ʻo Jasmine Mahinapolū Koko-Casey, kapa mau ʻia naʻe ʻo Koko. No ka ʻāina e mehana ai ka ʻili i ka pā ikaika mai o ka lā, no Kīhei nō au, no ka mokupuni ʻoi mau ʻo ʻIhikapalaumāewa hoʻi. I kēia manawa ʻānō, he haumāna mulipuka wau ma lalo o ka papahana hoʻomākaukau kumu ʻo Kahuawaiola ma lalo o Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani. I kēlā makahiki aku nei, ua puka wau me kaʻu mau kēkelē laepua ma ka Haʻawina Hawaiʻi (kālele ʻōlelo) a me ke Kālaiʻōlelo (kālele pilinaʻōlelo). He kumu ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi pū wau ma lalo o Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani no kekahi papa e komo ai nā haumāna o Ke Kula ʻo Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu no ka ʻai pālua.
Aloha nui kākou! My name is Jasmine Mahinapolū Koko-Casey, but I usually just go by Koko. I am from Kīhei, ʻIhikapalaumāewa (Maui). I am currently a graduate student in the indigenous teacher education program, Kahuawaiola, under Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani (KHʻUOK). Last year, I graduated with my bachelor degrees in Hawaiian Studies with a language emphasis and Linguistics with a structure/grammar emphasis. I am also a Hawaiian language lecturer under KHʻUOK that teaches students from Ke Kula ʻo Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu under the dual credit program.
What’s your passion?
ʻO ka hoʻonaʻauao ʻana kuʻu hana aloha. Pōmaikaʻi hoʻi wau i ka hiki iaʻu ke ʻōlelo i ka ʻōlelo a koʻu poʻe kūpuna, ka ʻōlelo kupa nō hoʻi o neia ʻāina. ʻIke naʻe wau, i loko nō o koʻu aloha nui i ka ʻōlelo makuahine, he kuleana nō ia oʻu.
Teaching is my passion. I’m so grateful that I am able to speak the language of my ancestors, the native language of this land. Even though I love teaching through my native tongue, I also realize that it is not just a passion, but a responsibility.
How would you describe your personal journey in life?
Ua pōmaikaʻi wau i ka ʻohana aloha nui. He ʻohana i kākoʻo a kōkua mai ma nā ʻano a pau. ʻO ka ʻoiaʻiʻo, ʻaʻole wau i hānai ʻia ma ka nohona Hawaiʻi; ʻaʻohe oʻu ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, ʻaʻohe oʻu nohona Hawaiʻi, ʻaʻohe oʻu kuanaʻike Hawaiʻi. Ua pau ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi ʻana ma koʻu ʻohana ma mua o koʻu hānau ʻia ʻana. Ma ka wā i hoʻomaka ai koʻu komo ʻana ma nā papa haʻawina Hawaiʻi ma ke kula waena, ma laila i ulu mai ai koʻu ʻiʻini nui e ʻimi ai i ka ʻike Hawaiʻi. A i kēia manawa, eia mai au ke hoʻohana maoli nei i ka ʻike i paʻa iaʻu ma ke aʻo ʻana i nā hanauna hou. No koʻu puka kula ʻana ma Mei, ua noi wau i kaʻu kumu ma ke kula waena e hana i koʻu lei i mea e ʻike ʻia ai kekahi ʻano o ka hoʻi ʻana aku i ka piko.
I was truly privileged with a loving family, a family that supported and encouraged me in all ways possible. To be honest, I wasn’t raised speaking Hawaiian, I wasn’t raised in a traditional Hawaiian lifestyle, I wasn’t raised with a Hawaiian perspective. The language was lost in my family far before I was born. When I started taking Hawaiian studies classes in middle school, that’s where my love for Hawaiian knowledge came to be. And now, here I am, truly using my knowledge to educate the younger generations. For my graduation in May, I have asked my teacher from middle school to make my lei to really make this experience come full circle.
What does your future hold?
Manaʻolana wau, he kumu wau no ke koena aku o ke ola. E hoʻohana kūpono ʻia ka ʻike i paʻa iaʻu no ka hoʻonaʻauao kūpono ʻana aku i nā ʻōpio. Makemake i paʻa maikaʻi ko lākou kahua i hiki iā lākou ke komo pū i ke kuleana ʻo ka mālama ʻana i ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi a pēlā pū i ka hoʻoili ʻike ma luna o nā hanauna e hiki mai ana.
I hope that I am a teacher for the rest of my life. I want my knowledge to be well applied in educating the youth. I want them to have a strong and solid foundation so that they will later be able to fulfill their responsibility of perpetuating the Hawaiian language and are also able to share their knowledge with the upcoming generations.
Why did you choose your major?
No ka Haʻawina Hawaiʻi, ua ʻike ʻē wau, ʻo ia ana kaʻu mēkia. Ua hoʻoholo ʻia iaʻu ma ke kula kiʻekiʻe. ʻAʻole naʻe wau i lilo he haumāna ma ka mēkia Kālaiʻōlelo a i koʻu makahiki ʻelua ma ke kulanui. Ma koʻu makahiki mua, ua paipai ʻia au e komo ma ka papa LING 102 a ua hoihoi loa! Ma laila wau i ʻike ai i nā ʻano ʻaoʻao like ʻole o ka ʻōlelo. Ma muli o ia hoihoi i komo kūhele ai wau ma ke ʻano he haumāna Kālaiʻōlelo.
For Hawaiian studies, I already knew that that was going to be my major. That is something that I decided in high school. However, I did not become a Linguistics major until my second year. In my first year, I was encouraged to enroll in the LING 102 class and it was so interesting! It was there that I learned about all the different aspects of language. And because I was so interested, I decided to enroll as an official Linguistics major as well.
Why do you think it’s important to study your major?
Ua kokoke halapohe ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. A inā nō i pau, me ia nō ka lāhui Hawaiʻi. “ʻO ka ʻōlelo ke kaʻā o ka mauli.” ʻAʻole ka ʻōlelo wale nō ʻo kai aʻo ʻia ke aʻo i ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, ma lalia pū ka moʻomeheu me ke kuanaʻike Hawaiʻi. He koʻikoʻi hoʻi ke komo ma ka Haʻawina Hawaiʻi ia me ke Kālaiʻōlelo i mea e hiki ai ke maopopo iā kākou ke ʻano o ka poʻe ma mua o kākou a pēlā e hōʻoia ai i ka ʻane halapohe hou o kā kākou ʻōlelo aloha.
The Hawaiian language was nearly extinct. And if it had indeed died, along with it would have been the Hawaiian race. “Language is the fiber that binds us to our cultural identity.” The language is not the only thing you learn when you learn the Hawaiian language, it is there you will also learn the Hawaiian culture and perspective. It is so important to study Hawaiian language and linguistics so that we are able to understand the ways of those before us and through this, we can ensure that our beloved language never becomes endangered again.
What makes the program unique?
Ma ka papahana ʻo Kahuawaiola e hoʻomākaukau ʻia ai nā kumu ma ke kuanaʻike Hawaiʻi. Ma nā kula kaiapuni a kaiaʻōlelo paha, aʻo ʻia nō nā maʻiʻo maʻamau, ʻo ka makemakika, ka ʻepekema, ka mākau ʻōlelo Pelekānia, ka mōʻaukala, a pēlā wale aku. ʻO ka hana nui naʻe ma kēia papahana, ʻo ia ka hoʻomākaukau ʻana iā mākou no ke aʻo ma ka ʻimi ʻana i ka pili o ka maʻiʻo i kā mākou poʻe haumāna Hawaiʻi. Aʻo ʻia mākou ke ala e hōʻike mau ai i ka haumāna i kona pilina i nā mea āna e aʻo nei ma kona ʻano he kanaka Hawaiʻi.
In the Kahuawaiola program, teachers are prepared from a Hawaiian perspective. In immersion schools, the basic subjects are taught: math, science, English, history, etc. But the biggest thing about this program is that we are prepared to teach these subjects while also finding the connection of the content to our students. We are taught how to constantly ensure them that what they are learning is connected to them as a Native Hawaiian.
What would be your personal motto?
I ʻolāʻolā nō ka huewai i ka piha ʻole. The water gourd gargles when not filled full.
Do you have any skills or talents that most people don’t know about?
He ʻili kuapo ʻeleʻele kēkelē ʻehā koʻu ma ka taekwondo.
I am a fourth degree black belt in taekwondo.
If you could be anywhere other than here, where would you be?
Inā i hiki ke hele wale e like me koʻu makemake, e hoʻi aku nō wau i koʻu mokupuni ʻo Maui e launa ai me koʻu makuahine a me koʻu pōkiʻi. Ma muli o ka maʻi ahulau, kokoke ka piha o hoʻokahi makahiki i koʻu hoʻi ʻole ʻana i laila.
If I could be anywhere else right now, I would go home to Maui to see my mom and little brother. Due to the pandemic, I have been unable to go home for almost a year now.