Students around table working on art project.

Make a Difference Day Goes Virtual

Converting IPA’s annual interactive, hands-on Make a Difference Day to a virtual experience while still keeping it engaging, meaningful, and impactful was no easy task. But with some creative thinking, much organizing, and many helping hands, Student Activities Coordinator Leisha Bento and Secondary Pu’uhonua Coordinator and English/Humanities teacher Owen Williams were able to put together just such an experience for the IPA Secondary students last Friday.

Make a Difference Day (MADD) provides an opportunity for the entire Secondary student body to contribute to the community in a meaningful way, traditionally by traveling to sites across O’ahu in partnership with different community organizations where they help out as volunteers with various tasks. This year, MADD organizers Bento and Williams turned to the non-profit organization Students Rebuild to provide the framework for the day’s virtual events.

Every year, Students Rebuild brings together students and teachers around the world for a collective action, or a challenge, to help increase awareness, create change, and raise funds for a pressing cause. Students explore the challenge and learn about the critical issue faced by young people in the world, and then create and submit specific artwork related to the challenge. For each piece of art received, the Bezos Family Foundation donates $5 to programs helping to solve the issue the students learned about.

This year’s challenge was the Change Maker Challenge designed to honor everyday heroes. With the many issues students are facing today, from a global pandemic to socially distant learning, to racial injustice, the challenge was put forth to shine a light on those making the world brighter.

Working in their Pu’uhonua classes, the students spent part of the morning learning about changemakers in the community, what change and engagement mean, and student activism through discussions, video stories, and class activities.

Students then reflected on their own experiences and identified important changemakers in their lives – parents, grandparents, neighbors, classmates, teachers, community organizers. They each selected one changemaker to create an artistic award for – like a certificate or slideshow or award video or trophy – and explained why they were receiving the award. Students were encouraged to share their awards with the changemakers in their lives. The artistic awards will also be submitted to Students Rebuild to raise funds for other changemakers around the world.

“I’m very pleased that we had such a great turnout for our modified Make a Difference Day,” said Bento. “Despite a few minor technical glitches, students seemed to enjoy the day and learned a lot about what it means to be a changemaker in today’s world. Because of IPA’s emphasis on service projects, I can see how this experience may have inspired our students to start thinking about how they too can make a difference in our community.”

“This was a great opportunity for the Pu`uhonua program to work directly with Student Activities,” shared Williams.” When the Pu`uhonua design philosophy is paired with the voice of Student Activities and the energy of student leadership we really unlock the potential of our whole school community, and can have fun while enacting positive change.”

The students ended their MADD with fun grade-level bonding activities, providing time for them to reconnect with each other and reflect on their work from the day.


Students sitting in classroom

Grade 8 students discuss change makers in their pu’uhonua class.


Leisha Bento sitting in her class.

Leisha Bento, Student Activities Coordinator, leads her Grade 9 pu’uhonua class.


Owen Williams in front of his class.

Owen Williams talks to his pu’uhonua about changemakers.


Student working on an iPad.

Students identified important changemakers in their lives to honor.


Students at table working on iPads.

Grade 9 students work on their awards honoring changemakers in their lives.


Students work on art project.

Grade 6 students create trophies and awards to honor the changemakers in their lives.