The University of Hawaii's Hawaiinuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge is celebrating its ten-year anniversary, and interim dean Jon Osorio spoke recently with Hawaii News Now about some of the school's problems, as well as many of its successes.
"The growth of this program has been pretty phenomenal. Hawaiinuiakea is the largest indigenous school in the world," said Osorio.
The dramatic growth began in 2007, after Hawaiian studies and language courses were merged into the Hawaiinuiakea school, but keeping up the growth has proved difficult.
"Our greatest challenge is enrollment, and building them back up to what they were a few years ago," said Osorio.
In 2014, Hawaiinuiakea had 170 students. Today, it's down to 157. Some other challenges include the lack of classroom space and a sense of inferiority toward the rest university.
"We need to address any kind of thought in the community that this university is a second choice, or should be a second choice for students," he said.
Osorio is proud that Native Hawaiian college students are more politically active than they were ten years ago. In 2015, students and community members built an ahu on campus to protest the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. Osorio was there when they did it.
"I think we tend to encourage that sort of activism, political and social consciousness here, and I think it's part of the culture of our school," said Osorio.
Over the next decade, he says efforts to train teachers need to be ramped up.
"The state constitution says that Hawaiian studies has to be taught in the DOE schools, in the public schools, and we have been failing that mandate, all of us collectively," said Osorio.
He also points to other milestones. Faculty are community leaders like Merrie Monarch winner, Keawe Lopes, who built a Hawaiian music institute which was recently utilized by Kamehameha School's song contest honoring Bina Mossman.
Of course, Osorio is proud of the more than 500 graduates over ten years like Kawaipuna Kalipi, who hopes to use her education to serve her home community on Molokai.
"Where ever you go. Education is what you make of it," said Kalipi.