Empowering Keiki With Culture

Growing up on a homestead farm on Hawai‘i Island, where she still resides, Puhala helped her parents and family to care for the land and animals. As a young person, she believed that the many people considered her as “just a farm girl”. Puhala dreamed of becoming a dentist and was a semester away from finishing dental school in Texas, but while she was visiting home during a school break, family circumstances resulted in her deciding to stay home and help with the farm and support her family.

Puhala was eventually hired as a Keiki Steps Teacher’s Aide at Panaewa in 2007. Through the years, she began to realize that the knowledge she learned on the farm had provided her with meaningful culture-based skills, and that the family values and work ethic instilled in her since childhood attributed to her personal, academic, and professional accomplishments. Believing in reciprocity and maintaining pilina, Puhala proudly shares her knowledge from the farm with Keiki Steps families and INPEACE staff, and actively volunteers in her community.

Puhala went on to earn her Associates degree in 2015, Bachelor’s degree in 2018, and, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, recently graduated with her Master’s degree in Education Curriculum and Instruction in Spring 2020.

We have delighted in her professional growth from a Teacher’s Aide, to Site Coordinator & ‘Ohana Advocate, to her newest role as Island Coordinator for Hawai‘i Island.”

The phrase, “Un nivel mas alto” (to a higher level), continues for her as a motto, and will continue on her educational pathway towards her doctoral degree as she has applied for and was accepted to the doctoral program at Liberty University.

When asked what she believes success is, she expressed, it’s “having my family, joy and gratitude”. Puhala is an outstanding example of cultural pride, perseverance, and hard work, and is a valued educator in her home community. INPEACE is proud to be able to support her and the many staff who strive to attain similar goals.

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