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Kuakini Brings Happy Smiles to La'ie Students

It was a long drive from Kuakini Street to La’ie but the smiles from students at La’ie Elementary School made the trip worthwhile.

On August 19, representatives of Kuakini’s Health Care Team delivered more than 30 boxes of school supplies to La’ie Elementary School as part of Kuakini Health System’s annual “Adopt-a-Teacher” community service project. Adopted teacher Dionne Toelupe and her kindergarten students eagerly received the boxes stuffed with primary composition books, manila folders, pencils, binders, crayons, water colors, colored markers, rulers, scissors and other classroom essentials such as paper towels, face tissues and hand sanitizers. Other donations included several dozen children’s socks, two pairs of rubber shoes and several packages of earphones.

“I am so overwhelmed by the generosity of your staff. This is so much more than I anticipated,” Dionne said, fighting back tears. “I appreciate all the school supplies for the kids. I know they are excited.”

Dionne has been teaching for nine years and has never seen such a big donation of school supplies. She is planning to share some of the supplies with students and teachers in other kindergarten classes and grade levels. 

Over half of the students at La’ie Elementary School are eligible for free or reduced lunches. Many families are financially struggling to make ends meet so they can barely afford to purchase school supplies. Many students live in a household with a large, extended family. Also, there are students who come from over 30 different countries such as Mongolia, China, Kiribati, Tonga and Samoa, and therefore, English is not their native language. 

According to Dionne, although these families have very little, the “students are so resilient. They work hard and try their best.” Parents often have no time to spend with their children after a long day of work, she said, so education stops when students leave the school. 

Another teacher that received school supplies this year is Erin Tanaka, a math teacher at Waipahu High School. She said one basic item her students always need is paper. Kuakini was able to provide her students with graph paper, pencils and several thousands sheets of college-ruled folder paper and notebooks.

Dionne and Erin’s students are the reasons Kuakini is committed in helping students all over Oahu through its Adopt-a-Teacher project. Kuakini believes in the importance of education, especially among school-aged children. 

Kuakini started adopting teachers in 2000.  Every year, one or two teachers and their students receive at least a year’s supply of school materials generously donated by Kuakini Health Care Team members. Schools that have benefitted from Kuakini’s donations include Leihoku Elementary School, Central Middle School, Salt Lake Elementary, Nimitz Elementary, Waiahole Elementary, Likelike Elementary, Linapuni Elementary, Waimanalo Elementary, Ka’ewai Elementary, Kahuku Elementary, Waipahu High School, Waianae High School, Nanakuli High and Intermediate School, and Kalaeloa Preschool at the HOPE Shelter.