Story by PO3 Jessica Blackwell on 05/15/2018Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary School celebrated its 75th anniversary, May 10. The school honored this milestone during its May Day observance culminating in Makahiki activities.
May Day is a longstanding Hawaiian tradition that celebrates the aloha spirit and giving of the flower lei. The May Day observance happens every two years at the Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary School.
"May Day is a time to bring students and families together and promote Hawaiian culture," said Dean Casupang, principal of Pearl Harbor Kai. "The students put in countless hours with our teachers to make this event a success."
The May Day observance was full of singing and dancing performed by the students in front of family, friends and a May Day Royal Court. To honor their 75th anniversary the school included Makahiki activities to conclude the day of festivities. Makahiki is a Hawaiian festival that reverences celebration, peace, and thanksgiving. It usually begins in November and extends to February, however for this special occasion the school felt the Makahiki activities should be included.
"We thought, this year it would be great to include the Makahiki activities just as we did for our 50th anniversary," said Bonnie Scheuring, Pearl Harbor Kai's Student Services Coordinator. "After the performances the students will fall into their respective groups and begin the Makahiki activities at different stations like storytelling, lei making, kappa making and Hawaiian games."
The anniversary and May Day celebration was an event that not only allowed students and teachers to work together but also recalled former staff. Maria Mendoza, a retired music teacher of Pearl Harbor Kai, returned to the school in February to work with the students from each grade two times a week in preparation of the May Day observance ceremony.
"It was really a collaborative effort by everyone," said Mendoza. "I really wanted this to be special.
There is a lot of history in the Pearl Harbor area. Mendoza spoke on the meaning of the school's name and how it ties to the area.
"Kai, which means water, is here, all around us," said Mendoza. "In the kai lives the spirit of the shark, the amakua, the guardian angel, which has been protecting this area for hundreds of years. This is why the school is known as Pearl Harbor Kai Sharks."
Former staff and teachers were not the only people who felt a call to assist in the May Day celebration. Sailors from Command Navy Surface Group Middle Pacific and Command Pacific Fleet volunteered to help at the lei making, kappa making and Hawaiian game stations. Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary School has been a school for generations of military children.
"These children are our future. I do whatever I can to give back," said Information Systems Technician 1st class Brandon Darr, Dousman, Wisconsin native, assigned to Command Navy Surface Group Middle Pacific.
Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary School has been providing education for students since World War II.
"Our saying is We care at the Kai,'" said Casupang. "We understand the difficult job and challenges of the community we serve. We care for everyone."