Punana Leo O Kona celebrates 20 years in West Hawaii

Photo courtesy: Kuuipo Freitas
Photo courtesy: Kuuipo Freitas

BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - A preschool that educates children in the Hawaiian language celebrated 20 years in West Hawaii on Saturday.

Punana Leo O Kona held their 20th anniversary fundraiser banquet on the historic grounds of Hulihe'e Palace in Kailua-Kona.

The fundraiser included live entertainment by Brother Noland, Kainani Kahaunaele, Aaron Sala and hula performances by Halau Na Wai Iwi Ola.

"It's for the ohana that have been a part of Punana Leo since the beginning in 1994," teacher aide Kuuipo Freitas said." This event is really to bring together all of the ohana and recognize them. It's to get community support for their kula and olelo Hawaii."

Students recited various oli, including an oli komo, or welcoming chant, entitled "Ha'aheo Hawai'i. The chant was written by Freitas and lead teacher Kaho'okahi Kanuha.

Punana Leo O Kona opened in 1994 in a two-story house in Holualoa. Now housed on the grounds of Christ Church Episcopal in Kealakekua, the preschool accepts 15 students a year.

The preschoolers are prepared for kindergarten while becoming fluent in Hawaiian. Nearly all of the school's 3 to 5-year-old children are fully fluent within three to four months.

The school is one of 11 statewide operated by Aha Punana Leo Inc., which led a movement to remove a ban in 1986 on teaching Hawaiian language in public schools.

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