Collaboration equips students with digital tools to stay connected

May 19, 2021


HONOLULU (February 18, 2021) – Amid continued challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, community organizations across the state have joined forces to ensure that some of Hawaiʻi’s most financially strained families can access the digital tools required for keiki to stay connected to their education. Through a partnership with Kamehameha Schools and the Pauahi Foundation, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation provided a $450,000 grant to the Kanaeokana network, a network that includes 17 Hawaiian-focused public charter schools and over 50 other aligned organizations.

“All of this is made possible by what we hope will become the new normal: greater collaboration that enables each of us to play to our strengths,” said Corbett Kalama, Executive Vice President-Hawai‘i Office, for The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. “We are thrilled to partner with strong statewide networks focused on ensuring keiki, families and schools have the support they need to stay connected and provide youth with meaningful learning experiences, especially in our more remote neighbor island communities.”

The Weinberg Foundation is dedicated to meeting the basic needs of people experiencing poverty and increased its grantmaking in Hawai‘i to $12 million per year for organizations focused in the areas of housing, health, jobs, education and community services. The $450,000 grant will provide Hawaiian-focused charter schools with over 1,000 computers or MiFi devices to loan to low-income students, digital toolkits for the schools’ ʻāina-based community partners to share online learning experiences from their sites, and four large-scale WiFi units to service rural communities, including the Puʻuhonua o Waiʻanae where many Kamaile Academy students reside.   

Over 68 percent of all Hawaiian-focused charter school students qualify for free or reduced lunches, and at Kamaile Academy, that figure is nearly 100 percent. Many students need help to access the digital tools required for online learning necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Kamaile is fortunate to be part of a collaborative of Hawaiian-focused charter schools nested in a larger network of Kanaeokana. We model for our students key Hawai‘i values such as laulima, or cooperation and taking joint action, by working together to pursue shared opportunities,” said Paul Kepka, principal of Kamaile Academy in Waiʻanae, Oʻahu. “The partnership and grant from the Weinberg Foundation and Kamehameha Schools help us to nurture in students the skills and passions to care for the people and places that make Hawai‘i our beloved home.”

The Kanaeokana network was formed in 2016 to strengthen Hawaiian education through collaboration, inspired in part by the 17 Hawaiian-focused charter schools that worked collaboratively for well over a decade. These 17 schools serve over 4,500 students, including those from rural or remote locations on Hawaiʻi Island, Molokaʻi, Oʻahu, and Kauaʻi. Kamehameha Schools provides the Kanaeokana network with financial support, technical assistance, and in-kind communications and infrastructure support. The relationships they build help them develop a unified approach to addressing the digital-divide issues they each face.

Serving as Kanaeokana’s administrative partner for this grant, the Pauahi Foundation can be an intermediary between donors and grantee recipients that advance Kamehameha Schools’ mission. The Foundation’s collaboration with those that seek to serve recipients that donors like the Weinberg Foundation aim to reach also advances Kamehameha Schools’ mission.