by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, CPIS MA student
On Saturday, 17 May 2013, Marshallese students, parents, teachers, and service providers in Honolulu attended the 6th annual Marshallese Education Day at the New Hope Leeward Church in Waipahu. The yearly event, which began in 2008, recognizes Marshallese honor students, encourages parents to become more involved in education, and challenges students to aim for college.
According to US Census Bureau statistics collected in 2010, as many as 6,316 Marshallese are registered as living in Hawai‘i.
“It’s important that we continue this event because it lets our students know that we support them,” says Gloria Lani, chairperson of the Marshallese Education Day Committee. “It’s important our students know that they’re not alone, and that there are others who’ve faced the same challenges they’ve faced.”
Litha Joel Jorju addressed these racial tensions in her article for Honolulu Civil Beat entitled “For Marshallese, Hawaii Is the Only Home We Have Left” (1 May 2013): “Those of us from Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau know that we are not yet accepted in Hawaii. We know that some people don’t like our traditional dresses and skirts, call us all “Micros” and think that we don’t know how to fit in,” writes Jorju. “We are trying. We are trying hard to get an education for our kids, get medical care for our elders, and jobs that will allow us to be self-sufficient.”
Marshallese families came together once again to honor and appreciate the many success stories of our Marshallese students.
Hawaiʻi Senator Jill Tokuda was the keynote speaker and helped to distribute the awards to the honor students. CPIS Specialist Julie Walsh, advisor to the Marshallese Education Day committee, and several CPIS students were involved on the day. I performed poetry for the group and my mother, RMI Minister of Education Dr Hilda Heine, was also an invited speaker. Senior BA student Cynthia deBrum also worked with the committee to record the students’ breakout sessions.
Marshallese Education Day was sponsored by the Republic of the Marshall Islands Government, New Hope Leeward, the Marshallese Education Day Committee, Waikiki Marshallese Assembly of God, and a UHM College Access Challenge Grant.