Original story published in Kohala Mountain News on May 28, 2022 by Libby Leonard, click here to read.
Several months ago, when school was in session, Ross Pagat knew he wanted to do something extra to help students start their day off right.
One morning he wrote a positive quote on a white board, walked himself to where the long parade of cars forms from families dropping off their children on Honomakau Road, and held it up.
At first he was nervous, unsure how he was going to be received, but his nerves calmed when he was met with copious smiles and waves. After that he came out every morn- ing he could, rain or shine, first thinking he’d go to Spring Break, but once that passed, decided to take it all the way to the end of the year. “It’s important that we do these things because we all go through struggles, every one of us. Some days, I may be struggling more than others. And that’s when that act of kindness can go a long way,” Pagat said.
Pagat is the Community Man- ager for Partners in Development Foundation (PIDF), a nonprofit that “empowers families to navigate social challenges and to grow self resiliency, vibrancy, and healthy, secure communities in Hawai’i.” PIDF partners with the three schools in Kohala, where Pagat’s job is to go out and gather information on school issues and needs, many of which he finds from the students themselves. These concerns are then brought to community partners and stakeholders to build relationships with the schools and find solutions, in what Pagat says is a Community-School strategy.
The community partners Pagat liaises with are extensive and include Liliuokalani Trust, Big Island Substance Abuse Council, Vibrant Hawaiʻi, Kohala Village HUB, Overflow Church, Takata Market and Hawaiʻi County Parks and Recreation.
In part, he attributes being able to hold up these signs to this teamwork. He came up with the daily quotes alongside his wife and son, whether by searching for them online, hearing them from friends, or making them up himself. Now that school is out, when asked what he could impart to the students, Pagat says, “My wish for the students over the summer is that they continue to seek out positive things and do positive things for other people.”