I was honored to be an invited guest and Hawaiian cultural ambassador as a part of the Global Studies program at The Meridian School, an independent K-5 elementary school in Wallingford. For the 2016-2017 school year, Meridian focused on Oceania for their Global Studies program, which featured participation from many teachers from the community to guide a culturally responsible educational program. In my time spent with the students and faculty at Meridian, we discussed the importance of telling stories and understanding oneself. Students engaged in a cultural exchange, and I learned so much from their fantastic, open ideas and curiosity.
As a guest speaker in their Friday Morning Meeting, through using a puzzle on identity and telling my own, personal stories, I introduced questions such as Who am I? (Self), Who do I represent? (Others), Where am I from (Place), and Who will I become? (Journey). When you ask yourself these questions, you better understand who you are and who you represent - why certain people and places are important to you. Knowing more about yourself enables a bridge to be built between yourself and others from all walks of life, a powerful bridge built on a meaningful foundation. Meeting individually with each grade, I shared presentations on topics including ahapua'a (habitat), kapa & quilts (tapestry), and identifying our own, deeper cultural traits, while understanding the affects that colonization has on our practices, our opportunities for growth, and our ability to preserve cultural traditions and personal identities.
This was a very personal experience in my cultural journey. The moment I will always carry with me was when students would kindly and quietly raise their hands over their hearts as I presented about my family and my home; a gesture The Meridian School uses to express connection. I have new memories and connections with many people, and a deeper connection to who I am, where I'm from, and where I'm going, for which I will forever be grateful. Mahalo nui loa.