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West // West Oahu Coverstory
Rasa Fournier

ARA Students Help At Air Station, Fishpond

Getting your hands and feet dirty isn’t something classroom students get to do every day, but May 2 called for some serious outdoor time for American Renaissance Academy (ARA) students.

The entire academy – pre-kindergarten through 12th grade – was involved in Community Outreach Day, helping to clean up the neighborhood, as well as learning something new about their surroundings.

The youngest volunteers, pre-K-grade 2, did some weeding and general beautifying of the school campus and neighboring areas. Grades 3-5 performed their community service at the Naval Air Museum at Barbers Point, and grades 6-12 went to Loko Ea Fishpond in Haleiwa to pull weeds.

“We were looking for places that would serve the dual purpose of allowing our students to serve their community while simultaneously allowing them to be educated about the history of their community,” said outreach day coordinator Cindy Montgomery, who is also the school’s director of college counseling.

“It was a little tricky to find organizations that were willing to allow our very young students to do community service, so in the end we had the pre-kindergarten to second-graders do community service at the school and in the neighborhood and then infused a bit of local history by letting them ride the historic Kapolei train afterward.”

Meanwhile, grades 3-5 got their own lesson in history and service, by heading nearby to the Naval Air Museum.

“ARA is located on the old Naval Air Station Barbers Point, where its main campus occupies the former three-story Base Commander’s Headquarters building,” explained social studies teacher David Suhs. “The museum’s director, Mr. Brad Hayes, gave the students a fascinating tour of a PC-3 Orion aircraft and a brief history of the Naval Air Station Barbers Point. He even told them a scary ghost story that dealt with a lost crew member of crashed military aircraft.

“The day concluded with the enthusiastic efforts of the students to clean out numerous tie-downs used by the museum aircrafts. The students loved the experience and said they didn’t want to leave and would love to come back often.”

The older students, grades 6-12, climbed right into the murky waters of Loko Ea Fishpond to remove weeds and invasive grass, and then hauled it away in wheelbarrows.

“I had worried that the students, female students in particular, would not like being in the muddy fishpond,” admitted Montgomery.

In fact, they enjoyed the field trip so much, she added, that, like the third-to fifth-graders – they didn’t want to leave and requested regular return visits. The trip also included learning about the fishery and the ahupuaa system, which is the ancient Hawaiian division of land and cultivation of natural resources.

History and community service aren’t typically things that youths would be expected to enjoy, but, said Suhs, “a group of elementary school and high school students from American Renaissance Academy proved any naysayers wrong.”

American Renaissance Academy sophomore BrayDn Look helps clean out the Loko Ea Fishpond in Haleiwa during the school’s May 2 community outreach. Photo from Elaine Peters.

Third-grader Cyrus Villacorte cleans out one of the museum aircraft tie-downs at the Naval Air Museum Barbers Point. Photo from David Suhs.

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