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West // West Oahu Coverstory
Christina O’Connor

Kapolei Teens Raise $$ For Local Nonprofits

Students in two of Kapolei High School's academies - the Learning Center for Applied Technology and the Industrial Technology Academy - raised funds for five local organizations by making and selling food. The students presented their earnings to each of the groups last month. Pictured above are (from left) students Mary Santabarbara, Anthony Estabillo, Melanie Chandler and Christine Cabanas, who contributed to raising $1,000 for the Oahu Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Photo courtesy of Esther Reid-Trani, Kapolei High School.

The 190 students who make up Kapolei High School’s Learning Center for Applied Technology (LCAT) and Industrial Technology Academy (ITA) cooked and baked their way to raising a total of $5,000 for five local charities: Easter Seals Hawaii, Shriners Hospital for Children, Women’s Community Correctional Center’s Prison Monologues, a transitional housing program in Kalaeloa and Oahu Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“It was a fun way for (the students) to be involved in social issues that they might think do not concern them,” explained LCAT and ITA academies support teacher Esther Reid-Trani. “But we explained to them that the problems that arise in society are everyone’s problem, and this is a solution that we can participate in – and even at their age, they can do something about it.”

A mandatory project for both academies, it kicked off with the students researching their selected organizations. Each group then visited other classrooms to talk to students about the organizations. They raised money by selling food on campus to teachers and students for two days last month. They also were responsible for preparing all of the food items on their own.

Senior class president Darius Kila and his group made 300 servings of haupia in their effort to raise funds for WCCC. Senior Mary Santabarbara and her group crafted hand-made meat jun plates in support of Oahu SPCA.

The support of the entire school, too, was invaluable to the project, organizers said. More than 1,000 students purchased food during the sale. The event was such a hit that items had sold out before the end of each day.

The project originated last school year when the two academies did a unit with the theme of being a “citizen of humanity,” which focused on identifying and examining worldwide problems as well as possible solutions.

“We were looking at problems that occur in the world that affect (other people),” Reid-Trani explained.

“We looked at homelessness; we looked at people who had special needs; we looked at the elderly; we looked at all different sectors in the community that could use help.”

Based on this theme, the teachers created a project where the students could learn about various local charitable organizations – in addition to conducting a hands-on project to benefit these groups.

“It was important for us to look at what is right here in our community,” Reid-Trani said. “Even though it is small, it’s representative of what is going on in the world.”

The juniors and seniors enrolled in the LCAT and ITA academies focus their studies on construction and engineering topics, and may go on to have careers in fields that include construction management, architecture and technology.

“I think traditionally in our school, and just generally, some people might think that people who go into these fields are not the philanthropic type … For us, that’s kind of the reputation that we have here on campus – that in these academies we are just a bunch of (students) who … build things.”

From the teachers’ perspective, the goal of the project was for students to be exposed to and help others who are less fortunate.

“I learned that there are so many charities and things out there that need so much help,” Kila said. “And I also learned that the world is so big and so vast that if every single person did something like this to contribute, there would be no problems … A lot of charities would have more funds.”

The students also learned practical business skills – from planning the event to budgeting expenses within their groups.

The students presented the checks – $1,000 apiece – to the groups at an assembly last month.

“She was really happy,” said Santabarbara about presenting the check to Oahu SPCA. “That smile she had was the biggest one I saw all day. It was very memorable, and it felt good.”

Next year, LCAT and ITA teachers hope to broaden the project’s reach and help seven charities.

“This is our way of being a ‘citizen of humanity’ – to make a difference in the world,” Reid-Trani said.

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