IPA Gives Back Day, like our annual Make a Difference Day, provides an opportunity for the entire Secondary student body to contribute to the community in a meaningful way. Traditionally, students travel to sites across O’ahu in partnership with different community organizations where they help out as volunteers with various tasks, but this year, IPA Gives Back Day took place closer to home, with Student Activities Coordinator Ruby Fernandez planning a full day of on-campus activities for the Grade 6-12 students.
“IPA Gives Back Day is an opportunity for our students and faculty to collaboratively work together to give back their time, their talent, and their service to the school and our larger community,” explained Dr. Brandy Sato, Secondary Principal. “We have students who are helping with on campus opportunities such as refreshing bulletin boards, cleaning our campus grounds and Kapolei Park, and learning more about improving our overall health and wellness through our Blues Zones presentation.”
Selected student-athletes also had the opportunity to travel off campus to give back to the Kunia Community. “We use the Kunia Gym for our practices for some of our sports, so we have these athletes working with our Athletic Director Greg Terhune, as well as our registrar Kelsey Uehira, to refresh the gym,” shared Sato. “They’re doing some light cleaning as well as repairing the screens around the gym as their way to give back.”
As part of their give back to the school, each Pu’uhonua class was assigned a bulletin board on one of the three floors to decorate. All of the designs were student led and student created, with the Pu’uhonua teachers just there to provide the supplies.
“We want to populate the school with motivation and support for everyone as they walk by all of our bulletin boards,” explained Grade 11 Pu’uhonua teacher Owen Williams. “But we want it to come from the students. My class took the time here to generate what sort of things we would want – how we want interactivity and just a chance to build community when we can’t all be around each other all the time.”
Williams’ students created a board with squares labeled with different emotions and push pins parked nearby. “We wanted to make an interactive board so when you walk by you can just take a little pin and then stick it in the square that tells how you feel. It makes us all more aware of each other’s feelings so we can all come together,” shared Maggie ‘23.
Middle school students created nursery beds to be donated to Onelau’ena Transitional Shelter. Students planted seeds for tomatoes, cabbage, soybeans, squash, carrots, onions, and peas.
“They will have a community garden at the shelter for each household, and these seedlings the students planted will go into those community gardens,” shared Aparna Cheerath, Secondary science teacher. “The hope is that people will be able to grow some of their own food in a sustainable, inexpensive way.”
Some of the senior class worked to put together Halloween goody bags, while the others created fun Halloween cards to go into each bag. The goody bags will be dropped off at several community organizations on the Westside side, including Hale Maluhia, Onelau’ena Emergency Shelter, and Guide Dogs of Hawaii for their visually impaired students.
Students enjoyed smoothies from Lanikai Juice in the afternoon as part of the Secondary students’ fundraiser in support of IPA’s Annual Fund.
The highlight of the day for the students was the Butterflies for Our Gardens activity. Students first planted tropical milkweed seeds in small pots to take home for their gardens, and learned all about Monarch butterflies from Darlene, owner of the Butterfly Experience, who joined via Zoom. Several lucky students from each Pu’uhonua were then invited outside to each release a live Monarch butterfly that had been provided by the Butterfly Experience.
“This activity was more of a personal one – for the first three activities students were doing things for the school or the community,” explained Fernandez. “The butterfly experience gives each student the opportunity to learn what butterflies are doing for our community and why they’re so important. Then they got to release them and see them in action – and they’re helping replenish the butterfly population!”
“IPA Gives Back Day is important because it aligns with the mission of our school in order to help our students to grow and become capable citizens who really have a true interest in bettering their community,” said Sato. “So we are very happy that we have this special day out of our typical curriculum in order for students to truly live the value of what it means to give back and to help whenever they can.”