Hawaiian Center finds new home

by Fredrene Balanay
Ka La Staff Writer

Students who need a place to study, eat lunch, meet new people or make new friends can now go to the new Huilili Ke Kukui Hawaiian Center, which recently opened its doors last month in Building 5.

“You don’t have to be Hawaiian to come to the center,” said the Center’s coordinator, Kalei Lum-Ho. “Just come.” “Even though we are called the Hawaiian Center,” Lum-Ho adds, “it is important everyone knows that anyone can come and enjoy the facilities.”

Other resources available at the Hawaiian center include services specific to Native hawaiian students through programs like Hōʻala Hou and Pōʻina Nalu. There is also a Native Hawaiian counselor who can help research native Hawaiian scholarships and educational grants. There are also cultural and career educational workshops open to everyone, both Native Hawaiian and non native Hawaiian. These workshops include arts, crafts and even subjects like how to succeed in an interview.

Regardless of its location, over the last 15 years or so since the Hawaiian center was formed, it was always a kind of space to gather on campus. “Starting in Building 7, moving to Building 20 and now Building 5, the Center has always had a space to gather,” said Lum-Ho.

For some students, the new space is better than the last one. “Well, for one reason, the new place has walls.” Says Summer Kipu, a peer mentor and current student at HonCC. “In Building 20 the walls didn’t reach the top so there was a gap between the wall and the ceiling.” Kipu said. She and fellow peer mentor Jayleen Barino agree this made it difficult for privacy or just plain being able to talk without disturbing the class or office on the opposite side of the wall.

“I also like the open glass window design of the front and the single entrance at this new center. It’s less confusing than the three different entrances we had at the old center,” Barino said.

When asked what they would miss most about the old location in Building 20, Kipu said, “I’m gonna miss the playfulness and the good memories. Sometimes, someone would say something about another person, in fun of course, then you would see a small ball coming over the wall. Good times.”

For Barino it was more personal. “When I first found Building 20, I was not only starting my education, but soon learned I was pregnant,” Barino said. “It was there I carried her inside me, and there she has been since the day she was born. She is a year and a half now. And I have pictures of her from four months old in that Center. They became family, and in a way a second home.”

According to Lum-Ho, their new neighbors will be both the financial aid office and counseling center. “This will be more convenient for the students, and make it easier for those registering and needing academic help or financial aid,” Lum-Ho shared.

However, despite the convenience of this new location, the Hawaiian Center wasn’t a part of the original relocation efforts of this project, until about three years ago.

In 2014, the now former vice chancellor of HonCC, Katie Ho, wrote the grant that started the renovation of the old building. The funding was acquired through a Title 3 grant. “Part of the Title 3 stipulates funds are given to Native Hawaiian-serving institutes to help promote and preserve the culture.” explained Lum-Ho. “It was this that prompted the relocation of the Hawaiian Center.”