Category Archives: Graduate Student Service-Learning Projects

Pan Pacific Association at the “Waves of Change” Conference

By Karin Louise Hermes, CPIS MA Student and Pan Pacific Association Secretary 2012–2013
For the opening ceremony reception of the “Waaves of Change” conference on Thursday 4 April 2013, Pan Pacific Association (PPA) coordinated and performed several Pacific songs and dances to welcome conference attendees from all over Oceania. PPA President David Dugucanavanua recruited singers and dancers from PPA, his hula halau (Ka Liko Pua o Kalaniakea), and UHM’s Polynesian InterVarsity ministry chapter (Hui Poly) to perform at this event. After several weeks of intense practice, PPA performed three dances in addition to contributions by Hui Poly and Ka Liko Pua o Kalaniakea. These three group dances emphasized the pan-Pacific spirit of PPA’s members and were taught by the PPA members in the 9th floor lounge of the East-West Center’s Hale Manoa dormitory: a Solomon Islands shark dance was led by Derek Mane, the always-popular Fijian raude was led by David Dugucanavanua, and Sandrine Meltewomu, from Vanuatu, taught a Kanaky dance from New Caledonia, where her mother is from. The dancers’ costumes were a combination of black and red lava-lavas, as well as skirts, assorted body ornaments, and accessories made from ti leaves by the dancers during a sleepless night on April 3. Since PPA activities this semester revolved around learning and practicing these dances, they gave a crowd-pleasing encore performance of the three dances as the final act of the East-West Center Participant Association’s “East-West Fest” the following week, on April 13.

“Waves of Change” and Kaimukī High School

By Jocelyn Howard, School of Social Work and CPIS MA Student
The April 4–6 “Waves of Change” conference brought many different people to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Among them were students from Kaimukī High School, located down the road from UHM campus. These students are part of the STEM and Media Projects of the Imua and the Pālolo Pipeline programs, which focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Their participation in the conference was to help them learn about climate change and how it is affecting the Pacific, their home countries, their lives and the lives of their future children, and media training. My service learning involved planning for how these students could prepare before the conference, mentoring students during the conference, and providing feedback for video editing after the conference.
The students visited UH Mānoa two times prior to the conference, during which they watched films on climate change, listened to presentations by Pacific Islander students—including myself—about how climate change has affected their communities, learned interviewing skills, learned techniques for video recording as well as how to interact among themselves and with the UH students and faculty.
The part of my service-learning project that I enjoyed the most was working with the students during the conference. The students had the opportunity to meet the keynote speaker, Minister Tony de Brum from the Marshall Islands, listen to his message, and conduct an interview with him to further explore the subject of climate change. The students interviewed other conference speakers including HE Ambassador Takesy from the Federated States of Micronesia to the United State of America. The students also participated in giving lei to the conference speakers.  Overall the opportunity to have this service learning has been a crucial part of my learning in the Pacific Islands Studies program. It allowed me to put theory into practice, serve my community, and learn from my community to be a better student, researcher, service provider, as well as community advocate. I would encourage every student in the program to do service learning.

I Finakmatan I Hila’ta (The Awakening of the Tongue)

By Kenneth Gofigan Kuper, CPIS MA Student
“I Finakmatan I Hila’-ta” or “The Awakening of the Tongue” is a service-learning project dedicated to perpetuating the Chamorro language. Kenneth Gofigan Kuper and Brant Songsong teach Chamorro language every Saturday from 10:00–11:15 am at Kakaʻako Kitchen. Hawai‘i has a large Chamorro community and many of these Chamorros were born and raised here. These classes were started to help diasporic Chamorros connect to their roots through the language. This language class helps Chamorros to learn and speak the language of their ancestors and also serves as a social tool for Chamorros to get to know and support one another. Each week participants can meet new people and develop new friendships, thus forming a stronger sense of community. Ranging from 7 to 20 people per week, the language pocket has been successful and fun. Each class starts with a different lesson that ultimately leads to direct dialogue between the members. The lessons they learn can be used in conversation, so the pocket views each week as a building block for becoming conversational in Chamorro. Each week, an e-mail is sent out by the Marianas Club at UH Mānoa providing a vocabulary list and lesson worksheet for that week’s class. This helps people to get familiar with the concepts beforehand and also allows those who are not able to attend to keep up with the lessons. This project has been a Chamorro community collaboration and will only continue to grow as more Chamorros find out that they can learn the language free of charge!
If you would like to learn the Chamorro language also, please feel free to contact Kenneth Gofigan Kuper at and the Marianas Club at These classes are for everyone, whether Chamorro or not, and only require an open mind, pencil, and paper. We hope you will join the effort to keep the Chamorro language alive and spoken!

Foods of the Pacific Islands

By Juliette Budge, Urban and Regional Planning PhD Student
While helping in an afterschool and workforce-training class in Kalihi-Palama, I got to know a group of women who often cook for events in the community. I asked if they would be willing to share their knowledge of some Pacific Island foods with me. The women agreed to cook on-camera and the foods were identified with the help of children from the afterschool program, who chose three of their favorite dishes to focus on.
Fried fish with sweet potato and taro was the first meal filmed. The chefs—Marie Akitekit, Asarina Yerten, and Ignacia Terno from Chuuk—explained the process as they skillfully prepared the meal at Shem Hall in Kalihi-Palama. The end result was not only delicious but also a record of their valuable cultural knowledge.
The next cooking segment focused on tapioca. The chef was Rakei Aunu from Chuuk. Filming began in Chinatown as Rakei navigated the shops with precise knowledge of the place that would have the ingredients she needed. Back in the kitchen, she stirred, kneaded, wrapped, and boiled the roots. While preparing and cooking, she told stories about learning to cook and the meaning of these foods for her family.
The final film was about otai, a Tongan specialty made with watermelon, pineapple, and coconut. With the help of Mina Ikavuka, Fane Lino, and Lilette Subedi, thirty children in an afterschool program set up stations for each fruit. They harmoniously went to work cutting, shredding, and juicing each ingredient. Fane showed the teenagers how to split the coconut without spilling the juice, and Villiami Lino, Fane’s son, taught the younger children how to shave off the white flesh of the coconut without scraping the shell.
The preparation of these foods was enjoyed by all participants. The short films will be screened in the afterschool program and will hopefully contribute to the interesting culinary and cultural knowledge that is here in the Islands.

Grant Writing as Part of Service Learning

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.

Tuesday’s Pacific Tongues Writing Workshops

By Kathy Jetnil-Kijner, CPIS MA Student
“The creativity beaver beatboxes prayers.” This gem of a prompt originated out of a freestyle session during one of the Pacific Tongues Tuesday workshops in Kuykendall Room 409. We discussed what is “creative” versus what is “wack/hackneyed.” What does creativity look like? Does it look like a beaver beatboxing sermons? The poetry and the freewrite that originated out of this workshop showed what Pacific Tongues is actively involved in—getting youth and writers around the Pacific to tell our stories and to think outside the check-marked box of what is “Pacific” and what constitutes “art” and “writing.”
Pacific Tongues is a new nonprofit organization that cultivates an active artistic Oceanic community of writers, spoken-word artists, rappers, and educators. One of the initiatives of the organization is to facilitate spaces to encourage creative writing for youth and for community members through school visits, open mics, slam poetry competitions, and free workshops in the community. The Tuesday workshop that birthed the “creativity beaver” was one in the series that Navid Najafi and I were leading and facilitating. With my background as a spoken-word artist and poet and with Navid’s background as a rapper with the group Ill-nomadics, we organized weekly writing workshops that fused poetry and hip-hop. Participants, who ranged in age and background from high school students to PhD students, wrote along to beats, freestyled poetry on myths and ghost stories, and talked back to the shadows that haunt them.
As a part of my service-learning project, I used the weekly sessions with Pacific Tongues to understand how spoken word can be integrated into my MA research project. My research project is focused on bridging the gap between the Marshallese oral traditions and the written word, with an emphasis on encouraging more writing among our youth. One of my theories is that spoken word, as a fresh and oral art form, might offer a solution for filling this gap. The Pacific Tongues workshops gave me the experience I needed to better understand how to encourage writing, and what kinds of structures, prompts, and discussions lead to participants being able to express themselves through writing and also share and connect with one another.
Ultimately, Pacific Tongues is about healing and connection through expression—a worthy endeavor in this day and age when so many of our Pacific communities are silenced or voiceless. I am excited to see this organization grow as we spread into the Pacific through the Marshall Islands, Guåhan, Saipan, and other places. I’m sure the creativity beaver is excited as well.


By Kahala Johnson, CPIS MA Student
Makawalu was established in 2010 in response to the lack of active Native Hawaiian organizations at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa. Since then, the group has been involved in Hawaiian advocacy initiatives on and off campus, including opposition to GMO kalo, the Honolulu Rail Transit, and the exhuming of iwi kupuna (ancestral bones) at Kawaiha‘o church; an Independent Hawaiʻi petition drive; and celebrations of Hawaiian holidays such as Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea (Hawaiian Kingdom/Sovereignty Day) and Lā Kūʻokoʻa (Independence Day).
The mission of Makawalu is to promote the vision of Hawaiʻiʻimiloa: a far-seeking Hawaiʻi in which pono imbues all aspects of life and ancestral knowledge is sought in realizing our futures; a Hawaiʻi whose people are the healthiest and happiest on earth; a place where sustainability is not a trend but a way of life; a Hawaiʻi that serves as an example for the rest of the world to live by. The way we achieve Hawaiʻiʻimiloa is through education, community support, advocacy, and numerous other far-seeking endeavors that serve the perpetuity of life.
In 2013, the group became an RIO (recognized independent organization on campus). Prior to achieving this status, its members volunteered their time and effort to the organization and execution of its events. Therefore, we decided to apply for a SEED (Student Excellence, Equity, and Diversity) grant to support the creation of an online media series describing various political and cultural issues in the Hawaiian community such as food sovereignty and the Kanaʻiolowalu Hawaiian roll commission. This was my first attempt at writing for financial support; I took this opportunity to learn the process, which I will use to help other Hawaiian groups in the future. Although the need to abide by deadlines and fulfill all parts of the application was important, the ability to articulate the objectives of the group was my foremost concern. The experience continues to inspire me to refine my skills and hopefully reapply for funding for subsequent projects next year.

Sound Project

By Jesse Yonover, CPIS MA Student
Music has always been an important part of my life and especially over the past few years. Last spring, some friends and I decided that a good way to give back to the youth in our community was through music, acknowledging the positive role it played in our own upbringing. Our desire to give back evolved into the formation of Sound Project in 2012.
Sound Project is a nonprofit organization that strives to involve local youth in Hawaiʻi’s thriving music industry. The project seeks to:
1) Involve students in the process of creating music on a professional level with guidance from established artists, producers, and experts.
2) Educate students on aspects of the music industry such as production and business through hands-on experiences.
3) Encourage creativity and innovation through educational outreach, competitions, and hands-on learning.
4) Elevate aspirations of students to share their music and make careers in the music industry, and promote socially and culturally constructive uses of music.
5) Connect reputable Island artists, producers, and studios with up-and-coming musical talent to nurture and mentor young musicians, helping pass along musical ingenuity to future generations.
Our vision is simple—to inspire Hawaiʻi’s youth to play and create original music, playing a pro-active role in their musical endeavors to instill exceptional musicianship in the next generation.
During the spring 2013 semester, I was able to develop the founding concepts as part of my service-learning project. Despite complications related to registering the program as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization in the State of Hawaiʻi, we were able to launch the program on the Internet in collaboration with the reggae blog ( I co-founded in 2010. The site gets close to 10,000 hits per month from over 30 countries and there is a dedicated page on the blog to inform followers about Sound Project. The next goals are to release previously recorded music for Sound Project with proceeds helping us get the operation off the ground and hold the first competition for high school students in the fall of 2013. For more information, see