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‘Be the One: Relationships, the Heart of Learning,’ tops the Hawaii Island Early Childhood Conference, April 19-20

According to Angela Thomas, program leader of Baby Steps to Stronger Big Island Families, every child needs someone who adores and encourages him or her.

To help develop caring role models, Thomas said they chose the theme “Be the One: Relationships, the Heart of Learning,” for the Hawaii Island Early Childhood Conference, April 19-20, at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa, sponsored by Baby Steps to Stronger Big Island Families.

The conference will focus on the importance of positive relationships with significant adults as a strong determining factor in a child’s future success.

Thomas said the theme is “the next step” to the Robin Karr-Morse keynote address during the last Hawaii Island Early Childhood Education Conference in August following the death from child abuse of 3-year-old Marley Makanani in Waimea.

“It’s the idea of stepping up to the plate, because nobody stepped up for Marley,” Thomas said.

The Friday evening event, “Healthy Brains … Healthy Children; Healthy Children … Healthy World,” by keynote speaker Dr. Steven J. Choy, will focus on developing healthy brains in children through relationships to help them cope with life.

Mervlyn Kitashima will give Saturdays keynote address, “No More ‘Children at Risk’: ‘Children at Promise.’” Kitashima was one of the participants in a famous longitudinal study on Kauai by Emmy Werner on the effects of children raised in high-risk environments. Werner followed her subjects through their lifetimes and discovered that those who were successful had a significant adult outside of their parents who encouraged and cared about them.

Kitashima not only survived her childhood, but also thrived, and she will discuss the factors that led to her success.

During the day, there will be a choice of 10 workshops, and participants will choose one for each of the two sessions. Topics include: Re-evaluating Our Role in the Classroom, “Be the One … To Help Me Learn Language,” “The Power to Inspire: The Asset Approach,” “Engaging Families: Be the One to Make it Happen,” “Peaceful Classrooms: Teaching Children to Resolve Social Conflicts,” and many others.

According to Thomas, there are already more than 300 people signed up for the conference, and they are still accepting registrants. The event is open to all, though a majority of the participants are associated with early childhood education, special education, foster parents, and those who work in family support fields.

Thomas said the varied expertise of participants allows for deep discussions during the workshops, which creates a rich experience.

“As long as we keep our minds open, we can gain from other people,” Thomas said.

For more information or to register, visit the Baby Steps website at, or email,, or call Gail Judd at 987-8710.