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What is Hōkūpa΄a?

Hōkūpa΄a, the fixed star of wayfinding in Hawai’i, is a constant that Polynesian navigators use to plot their course. The success of young people in West Hawai’i is our hōkūpa‘a and we use this premise to guide our work.

Mission: We work to empower students, support schools, and connect the community to increase the personal, educational, and economic success for youth and the future of Hawai‘i.

Hōkūpa΄a is a partnership created through the investment of West Hawai‘i youth and community leaders from University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Hawai‘i Department of Education, Kamehameha Schools, Hawai‘i Community College – Palamanui, County of Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i County Council, West Hawai‘i Community Health Center, and partnerships with The Learning Coalition, Friends of the Future and Roberts Foundation

West Hawai’i Challenge: Our Call To Action

The young people of West Hawai‘i need our combined support to reach their full potential. Too many students are struggling academically and few students pursue additional education after high school. Many youth indicate they are struggling with depression, bullying, and diminished self-worth. Lower levels of education and personal coping skills can negatively affect their long-term quality of life and lifetime earning potential, while also impacting the future health and economy of Hawai’i.

Youth are seeking guidance and support from their communities because schools cannot solve this multifaceted challenge alone. When youth work in partnership with their families, schools, and community partners, it provides the best opportunities to build connection and empowerment.

The navigation of this collective action is the work of Hōkūpa΄a.

Our Desired Outcomes For Youth

Public School Student and Teacher Success

Students thrive when parents support education, schools and teachers provide relevant learning environments, and community partners connect to enhance learning opportunities. Multi-sector collaboration with classrooms can increase student engagement, academic performance, graduation rates, and college enrollment/graduation. By working together, we can help schools improve education outcomes for our young people.


Youth Empowerment and Support

Our West Hawai‘i youth leaders define “youth success” as a combination of: happiness, optimism, empowerment, confidence, motivation, hard work, determination, courage, support, and contribution to the world. Social-emotional resilience and wellness are linked to both academic performance and quality of life. Local youth have told us that personal issues, such as interpersonal and emotional problems, are the top reasons they cannot focus on their education and they would like more skills to overcome these challenges.


Community Connection

It takes a whole community to teach you important values like respect, responsibility, trust, and honor– 2015 Hōkūpa‘a Youth Council.

The greatest resource for our young people is the collective wisdom and aloha within our own communities. By coming together and strengthening our relationships, we can increase communication, improve workforce development, and sustain connections necessary for Hawai‘i’s future.

Our Focus Areas

Many conversations with the 19 West Hawai’i school principals, teachers, and students revealed a need for Hōkūpa΄a to focus on three main areas:

  • Improving student engagement by increasing the RELEVANCE of education to students’ aspirations, career goals, and ‘real life’.
  • Strengthen RELATIONSHIPS with and between students and their peers, teachers, schools, and community.
  • Explore ways to increase the social-emotional RESILIENCE and ‘life skills’ that will help students to be mentally and emotionally ready to enter adulthood.

What does Hōkūpa΄a do?

RESEARCH THROUGH APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY – We ask many questions of diverse stakeholders because we believe that the solutions to complex problems can be found within the minds of our own community. We find out what is working now and look for the heroes who are doing great work in West Hawai’i.

CONVENE AND CONNECT – We bring people together from different areas, agencies, and levels to have new conversations about what is possible. We build empathy for each other so that we can work with aloha and understanding.


BUILD PARTNERSHIPS AROUND COMMON GOALS – People work well together when they share a common goal. We look for the points of alignment between partners so that we are involved in mutually beneficial activities for student success. We help to define goals and facilitate honest conversations that will help us all move forward.