On Campus: Redefining Success

Kamalani Academy’s founding vision focused on using Hawaiian culture to create a sense of belonging and improve academic achievement for all students.

But teachers have struggled this year with how to incorporate Hawaiian culture into their classrooms, and connect with kids from very different backgrounds.

In Episode 7 of “On Campus,” reporter Emily Dugdale travels almost 4,000 miles east of Hawaii to Springdale, Arkansas — a place with a pretty unexpected group of Pacific Islander immigrants. On Campus is a special audio reporting project from Civil Beat, chronicling Kamalani Academy’s first year.

Springdale is home to more than 12,000 Marshallese. It’s the largest Marshallese community outside of the Marshall Islands.

As a result of its booming population, the Springdale School District has roughly 3,000 Marshallese students — many of them English Language Learners. Now, there’s a growing effort by the school district to hire Marshallese teaching assistants and liaisons to help students and families adjust to a very different way of life.

The district hopes that by putting more Marshallese in classrooms and offices, as well as offering community services to Marshallese families outside of school, students will feel more comfortable and grades will improve. But Marshallese staff are also working to redefine what school success looks like,  to better reflect the priorities of Marshallese families.

Springdale is a much whiter community than Wahiawa, but it could have some lessons on cultural representation that even a diverse school like Kamalani could learn from.

On Campus is an ongoing project chronicling Kamalani Academy’s first year. Listen to Episode 7 of On Campus below, or download it on iTunes.

On Campus is supported by a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems. 

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