Na Puka Kula: Hawaiian Immersion Graduates
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Graduate of Ke Kula Kaiapuni O Kekaulike in Pukalani, Maui, class of 2001
Leahi Hall, 28, part of Kula Kaiapuni O Kekaulike’s lead class of six, points out that the early Hawaiian language immersion schools were one of the first immersion schools in the United States, period. “I think all the work that our parents put into our education, to our program, when it wasn’t that popular, is so remarkable and that’s really why we succeeded,” Hall says. “It instills in you that same work ethic for things that are important to you, your family, the land and the culture.”
Of the four subjects we spoke to, Hall alone, if she ever doubted the program, kept it to herself. But then, her connections run a bit deeper than the average graduate’s. Her parents were instrumental in developing Kekaulike’s immersion program. Her mother, Dana Hall, of Hawaiian descent, is an activist and former chair of the Maui County Burial Council; her father, Isaac Hall, a land use lawyer recognized by the Sierra Club for arguing more cases on behalf of the environment than any other lawyer in the state. Leahi Hall is their only child.
After high school, Hall studied at Stanford as a cultural and social anthropology major and played varsity volleyball. Now, she’s the director of admissions at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, California, where she coaches volleyball. Hall doesn’t plan on moving back, but she’s acutely aware of how her kaiapuni (immersion) experience has shaped her. “I think that we try to be Hawaiian the best we can in this current day,” she says. “[Kaiapuni] instills in you a foundation that never goes away. That’s the block on which I stand to this day, no matter where I am, whether or not I use the language every day. That’s the core in me.”
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