Native Hawaiian Initiative

Nā Ko'oko'o: A Hawaiian Leadership Program

Tackling Pressing Community Issues

Through the Nā Ko'oko'o program, Native Hawaiian students are provided with skills and abilities that allow them to help their communities tackle pressing issues, such as sacred site protection, 'āina (land and water) restoration, and ea (sovereignty) regeneration. Students also earn six upper division credits and cover four general education focus designations as part of this community-engaged program. The 2016 inaugural cohort was led by Professor Noelani Goodyear-Ka'ōpua, and next year's 2017 cohort will be led by Professor Ty Kāwika Tengan.

The name of this new program comes from the word, "ko'oko'o," which can refer to a walking stick or staff that one uses to lean on as they walk. The program aims to build a support system for Native Hawaiian students and others who have commitments to Native Hawaiian communities. It also aims to train them to become a new generation of ko'oko'o, supporting their communities and supporting change. Reflecting on the program, one student said, "there is so much that I can do to help my community and lāhui with the knowledge that I am gaining in school and through these types of experiences."

Through Nā Ko'oko'o, students develop the skills and confidence to become community leaders. A ko'oko'o can only provide such support by being planted firmly on the ground. Just like the ko'oko'o, student participants learn that to be a pillar of community support, one needs to be firmly rooted in 'āina and lāhui.