A Culture of Empowerment and Leadership Development
Hawaii Island Coordinator, Keiki Steps
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.
Empowering Early Childhood Education
At one point, Carla Ring-West’s family grew to 17 people under one roof, with five biological children and nine foster children. Starting with her oldest son (who is now 16 years old), every child that she and her husband raised attended Keiki Steps, INPEACE’s Family-Child Interactive Learning preschool. As a young mother, she knew that she wanted to be involved with her children’s learning. Through her participation and learning in Keiki Steps, and leveraging the knowledge she gained in teaching her own children, she blossomed into an educator and advocate for early childhood education. Over the years, Carla and one Keiki Steps teacher had become so close that they considered eachother like family. When she was offered the opportunity to work side-by-side with that teacher, she jumped at the opportunity.
Carla also received assistance from INPEACE’s Ho‘ala program, which supported here in finding preschool for nine of her children so she could also work outside of the home and attend college courses. With multiple keiki applying for preschool the number of forms to complete and submit for preschool enrollment, tuition subsidies, as well as the foster care system’s procedures were daunting. Ho’ala supported her in navigating throughthose processes successfully. Her husband and mother contributed to her being able to work while raising the children, helping to drop off and pick up keiki from preschool, and her mom attending Keiki Steps with the younger children when Carla could not attend. Carla considers it a privilege to participate in Keiki Steps alongside her children and her mom, which she believes has directly constributed to her keiki’s sucessful transition to preschool and kindergarten.
She is a staunch advocate for early childhood education and she continues to mirror and model the support and knowledge she has received from INPEACE within the community. Through advocating for her children’s education and helping others in the community to navigate these systems, her desire to learn more about child and family development has sparked a deep interest in psychology, trauma, and culture. Carla is now working on her Associates degree in Early Childhood Education!
Educational Equity, Leadership & Teacher Development
In 2007, graduating from Wai‘anae High School, Delton Kekahuna never imagined his journey would lead him to come full circle. Unsure of his next steps after high school, he began working at WHS as a paraprofessional teacher (PPT). As a PPT, an educational worker who is not licensed to teach, he worked one-on-one with students as part of their IEP (Individual Education Program) and performed other supportive duties in the classroom. After several years, he became an Educational Assistant (EA) fulfilling the role of a teacher’s aide. “Mr. K”, as he is affectionately known by his students, is currently a long-term substitute teacher. Through the years, he has created pilina with his students and colleagues, and participated with INPEACE’s Ka Lama Educational Academy. He realized that he wanted to make a difference on the teacher turnover rate because he witnessed firsthand the negative impacts that frequent and continual teacher turnover has on students and schools. His once unsure and independent mindset has grown into an ‘ohana spirit that solidified his decision to become a teacher because of the reciprocal bonds he makes with students and colleagues. This inspired him to maintain his own educational journey, being the first in his family to attend college, attaining his Associates in Arts degree and now attending UH-West O‘ahu’s Bachelors in Secondary Education program with a minor in Special Education. He believes his experience as a PPT, EA, and long-term substitute has encompassed aspects for him to become a well-versed teacher. With the encouragement of other teachers and INPEACE staff, he believes he’s surpassed the most difficult hurdles. Long-terms he would like to achieve a Doctorate degree and eventually develop a college scholarship fund for students who may not have the highest GPA’s, but whose passion for learning is boundless.
Family Economic Capacity Building
Ariel Ani-Anguay was working up to 12-hour shifts as a Physical Therapist at a clinic in Wai‘anae. Spending long, physically demanding days as a massage therapist was originally how she began to pursue her passion for helping people heal. She learned about INPEACE’s business development program, gave it some thought and with an idea in mind, she became a participant. Driven by her desire to help people heal without using chemically-based products, she started taking steps and then a leap towards her own financial freedom when she became her own boss as a blossoming entrepreneur. Ariel created her own organic, eco-friendly skincare and launched her own business, Leira Organics. She felt empowered as a homegrown start-up and left her full-time job at the clinic to strike out on her own. It didn’t take long before her next-level goals to expand were developed and met. She reached out and connected with others like farmers who grew the ingredients she needed for making her products, established her own website for customers to book massage services and purchase products, and was eventually approached at a farmer’s market by a store manager who offered to carry her products, all which have opened doors for future opportunities to expand her reach inward and outward of her community.
She believes success means having the freedom to do what one wants, and she is motivated to keep that momentum. Since participating with INPEACE’s Ho‘oulu Waiwai program, she now seeks out other programs that offer learning opportunities to grow not just her own business, but those that will benefit her life and the betterment of community.