ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY celebrated being certified as a Blue Zones Project School and Worksite on Wednesday, November 25, becoming the very first school in the Kapolei area to receive certification as both a school and a worksite. IPA received the certification in February, after two years of work to meet the requirements.
A special virtual ceremony led by Elementary Principal Steve Ross was attended by Crystal Robello, Blue Zones Project Community Engagement Lead for Kapolei-Ewa, and Megan Yarberry, Blue Zones Project O’ahu Schools Lead, as well as Honolulu City Council Member Kymberly Pine, representing District 1 (Leeward O’ahu).
Brought to Hawaiʻi by HMSA, Blue Zones Project is a community-led initiative with a mission to enhance the well-being of Hawai‘i’s people by continually improving the environments where we live, work and play.
Blue Zones Project was brought to IPA through a Student Action Committee initiative two years ago by a group of Grade 5 students at the urging of Ross and with guidance from Katherine Jones, Sustainability & Innovation Coordinator. The students managed, planned, marketed, and carried out a wellness platform for the Elementary school, which included identifying areas needing improvement, approaching the administration to make changes in policies, and persuading students to change their behaviors to improve wellness and to contribute to their overall well-being and health.
During the ceremony, two of the students, Tristan Bedford ’26 and Charlie Hinderer ’26, now in Grade 7, were recognized and received a special Certificate of Proclamation from the Council of the City & County of Honolulu presented to IPA by Council Member Pine.
“The Council of the City & County of Honolulu takes great pride in honoring and recognizing ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY for identifying the value of a healthy lifestyle and bringing it to students and families and the community as a whole to change their lives and their focus to a healthier future for all,” read Council Member Pine from the proclamation.
“We at Blue Zones Project extend our heartiest congratulations to IPA,” said Yarberry. “The students played a really big role in achieving this recognition and helping the school offer more ways to make healthy choices that lead to happier and longer lives. A big shout out to all those students, and to Mr. Ross and Ms. Jones. It was amazing what you were able to do.”
Council Member Pine was instrumental in bringing Blue Zones Project to the Leeward community. She spearheaded the efforts to get Kapolei-Ewa designated as a Blue Zones Project community in 2018. Through that effort, there has been increased community awareness through events and opportunities for leeward residents to learn about healthy lifestyle choices in order to reduce the high rate of health risks impacting our district.
The certificate of proclamation highlighted the many initiatives taken at IPA, including expanding the school garden and incorporating gardening as an outdoor classroom experience; removing non-nutritive vending machines from campus; enacting a prohibition on vaping and smoking on campus; providing after-school programs with healthy cooking demos, dance, and yoga activities for students and parents; and organizing community volunteer projects with the ‘Ilima at Leihano senior living facility, delivering greeting cards to patients in hospitals, and hosting wellness events.
Ross gave special recognition to Jones for all of her efforts in helping to bring about this milestone.
“We wouldn’t have received this recognition without Ms. Jones,” said Ross. “She has been the person who has led from behind while giving the students the opportunity to be our leaders, providing many ideas but also listening to their ideas so they could help change our school culture.”
“We look forward to continuing the partnership with Blue Zones Project and continuing the journey of health and wellness and mindfulness,” said Jones. “We are looking forward to all of the great things we are going to do on campus.”
Following the ceremony, the Elementary students were treated to healthy snacks and some fun hip hop dance lessons from Breaks R4 Kidz, all courtesy of Blue Zones Project Kapolei-Ewa.
Through the dedication and hard work of the students, teachers, and administrators, and with the support of Blue Zones Project Kapolei-Ewa, IPA’s school culture has changed to embrace healthy choices and healthy living leading to happier and longer lives of the people in our community. Congratulations, ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY!