UH Hilo K-12 Hawaiian language immersion school wins high honors

The National Indian Education Association awards the William Demmert Cultural Freedom Award to Ke Kula ‘O Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u immersion school. 

Large group of school children seated/standing for photo in matching maroon shirts.
Cohort from Ke Kula ‘O Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u (2017). Photo courtesy of the school.

A K-12 Hawaiian language laboratory of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is the recipient of one of the highest awards given by the National Indian Education Association (NIEA). The school, run by UH Hilo Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, is being recognized for its work in Hawaiian medium-immersion education in Hawaiʻi.

Ke Kula ‘O Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u will be awarded the William Demmert Cultural Freedom 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.

Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa
Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa

“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,” says Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, director of Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language. “William Demmert was a strong advocate of language revitalization programs, which makes this prestigious recognition a special honor.”

Ke Kula ‘O Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u is a laboratory school of 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, Hawai‘i Island, and operates as both a charter and state school within a single K-12 campus.

Kauanoe in red shirt with green foliage in the background.
Kauanoe Kamana

“Nāwahī is a model for indigenous language and academic success with over 85 percent of its students continuing on to higher education,” explains Kauanoe Kamanā, faculty at Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani and director of Ke Kula ‘O Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u. “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.”


Media release

Oct. 18, 2018: This post was revised to correct the name of the award to the William Demmert Cultural Freedom Award.

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