With the start of the academic year only weeks away, one Big Island school is welcoming students back with a message to be kind to each other.
Kohala Elementary School has commissioned local artists to create murals to depict that concept.
“With students returning we wanted to set the tone and we have that encouragement and have the place more welcoming as we prepare for all of the students to come back,” said principal Hannah Loyola.
School counselor Lei Moore said it is a project she has wanted to do for years.
“We wanted to bring a lot of positivity to the school. This year I was given the opportunity to work during summer, which I never do,” said Moore. “The specifics of the summer job was to concentrate on SEL, which is social emotional learning, which our school is really big on. This was my chance to do this project since I didn’t have to teach a class or counsel the kids. With the past year with everything going on globally, let alone the pandemic, with our kids coming back we wanted to do a beautification project.”
Moore enlisted two local artists, Roland Pacheco and Shane Andreas, to complete three murals on campus.
Andreas created two murals with the message be pono and live pono, which is the school motto.
“Pono encompasses being righteousness, choosing to do the right thing, sharing, our kuleana, community,” she said.
Pacheco created a colorful mural with a message of kindness.
“We have been part of the Great Kindness Challenge the last five years so part of this was inspired by that,” said Moore. “Plus it was time for us to have a face lift for our school.”
Her only request for the mural Pacheco created was to have a butterfly incorporated so keiki could take their picture in front of it, and the message of kind or kindness.
“I showed him a few ideas of what I was looking for but told him it is your art mural,” she said.
“At first I was thinking of something realistic and dramatic, but then I thought these are kids,” said Pacheco, owner of Xisle Custom Tattoo in Kapaau. “The schools are a drabby institutional color. What matters to children are bright colors and things they can see and get lost in. Visually, I went with that, and something that would showcase Kohala, too.”
Pacheco decided his kindness message to read, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”
“He did an amazing job with putting aspects of Kohala in it from the lighthouse to Pololu Valley,” Moore said. “It is gorgeous. He is so talented. Being from Kohala, giving back to the community, having a sense of Kohala being put into the mural, it was amazing. I was so happy with the final product. They made my vision come true.”
Teachers and community volunteers assisted in the projects by preparing the walls. Moore said they removed several staples used to post notices over the years.
“It couldn’t have been at a better time considering all of our students haven’t been on campus and now coming back to this,” Moore said.“It’s a very nice welcoming gesture for our students and our families.”
Moore said the murals are part of a bigger project at the school.
“We have a garden area that we use for our special education students. It was overgrown so we had kids come and help us clear the weeds and paint the blocks. Our end idea is to have the kids put handprints on it for the idea of working together in the garden takes many hands to make to make the work lite,” she said.
They are also painting the walkways outside of the K-2 classrooms as a “peace path”.
“We teach our younger students the peace path, where the students are given opportunities if they have a conflict with other students to come outside and use it,” she said.
“Just to have the honor to do something that will be there for a while and people are going to look at means a lot to me,” said Pacheco. “My grandparents and great grandparents were really a part of the community. They had a reputation in town and I want to make sure it gets carried forward positively.”
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald