It started out with a simple need. Six years ago, Dixie Adams, a North Kohala resident, attended a fundraiser at Kahilu Theatre to support student programs for area schools. She thought the theater’s programs were perfect for students, but saw one important missing component.
“I wondered why our (Kohala School) kids never went, and I found out it was the price of tickets and transportation,” Adams said.
Adams decided to make it her mission to find funding to send Kohala School students to Kahilu Theatre events, so she created the North Kohala Student Cultural Enrichment Program.
“It started out very simple … We got a lot of wonderful people to support us,” Adams said. “Since then, we have expanded greatly.”
The fifth graders were the first students to benefit, and NKSCEP committed to sending them three times a year. The program went so well that Adams worked to include other grades, and she recruited Laura Burkhart to serve with her as NKSCEP program co-coordinator.
“Dixie told me about the program and I thought that it was totally worthwhile,” Burkhart said.
The enrichment program now covers activities for first through seventh grades and has expanded beyond Kahilu Theatre events – totaling about 500 students per year who are able to attend arts, academic and cultural events through NKSCEP.
“This community is pretty isolated. It is not like our kids get away a lot – they don’t,” Burkhart said. “It is important to broaden their experience of the wider world.”
Last year, each grade had a different experience targeted for their specific academic level.
Students took field trips to Pu’ukohola Heiau, visited Keck Observatory for a program on planets, attended “Nothing is the Same” and “A Korean Cinderella” through the Honolulu Theatre for Youth at Kahilu, went to the Ka’upulehu Interpretive Center near Kona Village, attended “Yankady, Here is Good?” a West African Dance and Music program at Kahilu, and explored the Mauna Lani fish ponds as well as other events.
Adams and Burkhart work closely with Kohala School principal Danny Garcia and Rose Mae Watterson, who recently retired from the school, as well as with Tim Bostock, managing and artistic director of Kahilu Theatre, to develop the programs.
Adams said Bostock has been an enthusiastic supporter of the NKSCEP and that he works directly with them to coordinate unique opportunities for students.
“The NKSCEP is a fabulous organization that makes a real difference in the lives of hundreds of North Kohala kids,” Bostock said. “Dixie and her team have arranged multiple trips for the schools to Kahilu Theatre, to dance, music and theatre shows, as well as to the Gallery for such shows at the Voyager Exhibit.”
Bostock said that last year, NKSCEP enabled a visit from the Hawaii Opera Theatre, who gave a performance of ‘The Mikado,” enjoyed by almost 500 students throughout Hawaii Island.
“All of us at Kahilu are delighted to have Dixie as a partner in bringing culture into our community,” Bostock added.
“Before we send them to the Kahilu Theatre, we try to educate them about what they were going to see,” Adams said.
For example, Erik Haines, Hawaii Opera Theatre tenor, went over to Kohala School the day of “The Mikado” performance. In their own environment, he talked to the students about what they were going to see, gave them an overview of the history of opera and provided them with good background on “The Mikado.” When the students got to Kahilu Theatre to see the opera, they were prepared.
“They had never heard an operatic voice,” Adams said. “They really enjoyed ‘The Mikado.’”
Not only does the NKSCEP take students out on field trips, they also bring programs into the school. They invested in Kid Pan Alley, a program that teaches students how to write music, and helped support an in residence Korean Mask and Cultural program. They also helped with the school’s Healthy Lifestyles Program.
“Watching them totally focused and absolutely participating on what is going on, it really makes a difference, which is why I do it,” Burkhart said of her volunteer position.
Principal Garcia said if it weren’t for the North Hawaii Student Cultural Enrichment Program, it would be a challenge for his students to attend the cultural, arts and scientific events.
“It is important to provide our student with an array of educational opportunities,” Garcia said. “Dixie has been an important supporter of our school. … They really understand the importance of maintaining the arts in schools.”
He emphasized that a multisensory approach to learning engages multiple intelligences, whether in academics, arts, linguistics, music, or sports. He said students need an “array of educational opportunities. ”
“It is important for all students to have that blend—that well-rounded education that promotes engagement for the students in school,” Garcia said.
Adams and Burkhart even make sure the students have snacks, and they provide peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on field trips for students who don’t bring a lunch.
Funding for the program comes from a variety of sources, including the annual Visitor Industry Charity Walk at the Mauna Lani Resort in May and the North Kohala Community Resource Center. Adams said fundraising usually isn’t too difficult, once donors learn the funding is for bringing arts, culture and science field trips for students who otherwise would be left out.
For more information, call Adams at 889-5730 or Burkhart at 884-5833. To support the North Kohala Student Cultural Enrichment Program, send donations to P.O. Box 307, Kapa’au, HI, 96755.