By Keali‘i MacKenzie, CPIS MA Student
For my PACS 603 service-learning project, I wrote a SEED grant application. SEED stands for Student Equity, Excellence, and Diversity. The purpose of these grants is to address issues on ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, and culture. These may be projects that take place on campus or in the community.
With my background and connections to the Hawai‘i slam poetry community, I wanted to pursue a project involving poetry. Fortunately, I knew of the nonprofit organization Pacific Tongues. According to their Facebook page, their mission is “to provide a safe and central location in the Hawaiian Islands to facilitate a cross-cultural exchange within Pacific influenced populations through spoken arts education. Our commitment is to honor the practice of kuleana (responsibility or privilege in the Hawaiian language) through creative workshops, public events and pedagogical development.”
I was naturally drawn to Pacific Tongues’ commitment to creative workshops in the public school system. I worked with Jason Mateao and Melvin Won Pat Borja, two of the co-founders, to propose a project that SEED could fund. We decided to apply for funds for a poet to conduct workshops with students in an O‘ahu public high school. These workshops would focus on creative writing as means of expression and an avenue to improve the students’ self-confidence.
Although we were not awarded a SEED grant, this project taught me about the potential for partnerships between the university and arts-focused nonprofit organizations. Institutions such as the University of Hawai‘i and Pacific Tongues have distinct strengths that can be used to foster a vibrant creative arts community, which I believe is essential for students’ success at all education levels. The programs organized by Pacific Tongues are vital to unleashing the creativity of Pacific Islander and Kanaka Maoli students. Lastly, the experience of applying for a grant was very useful. This is a vital skill for students and those who do community-based work.