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Pili A Pa‘a is an educational project that was created to address critical deficits in reading, math and science for Native Hawaiian students on the island of Hawai‘i. The project then added a community school component, Piha me ka Pono, as it recognized that in order for student to succeed, the social emotional and health needs of the family and community needed to be addressed.

Native Hawaiians represent nearly half of the Kohala Complex school’s student population and are at risk because the curriculum was geared towards Western teaching styles that focused on individual effort and competition. Native Hawaiians, on the other hand, strive for achievement and excellence for the benefit of the group and not individual recognition. This project seeks to build teachers’ knowledge of curriculum, Common Core State Standards, and instructional strategies while integrating Native Hawaiian cultural values and processes.

The project provides teachers a four-week intensive training and collaboration period to enhance their teaching practices. Teachers work with an instructional coach to create units of instruction for their respective content area(s). The coach provides critical feedback and research-based instructional strategies to enhance the curriculum development process.

Through this process, teachers will be able to examine and integrate culturally responsive teaching strategies to increase academic achievement not only for Native Hawaiian students but also for all other student groups found at the school. Collaboration between teachers at all schools is embedded in the project to create professional learning communities within and between the schools.



The purpose of Piha me ka Pono is to address all the needs of Kohala Complex students, going beyond academic requirements and looking at the students and their families as a whole picture. Students already struggling with issues like poverty, food insecurity, and poor physical, emotional or mental health are much more likely to struggle in school than their peers. 

The project has plans to expand in the near future, providing literacy courses concurrently for adults and kids. Budgeting is more important than ever, as 80% of families in the Kohala community have been impacted by COVID-19's hit on the hospitality industry.

Piha me ka Pono cultivates community partnerships to bring needed academic, health, and social support services for the students and their families.

Our program works to address any needs of the Pili a Pa'a community, including food distribution services and drives. Our staff work alongside the Kohala teachers and principals to make sure families especially at-risk or in need do not fall through the cracks.

One of the project’s goals is to increase academic achievement of disadvantaged and under-served students through the development of after school enrichment programs that provide positive alternatives for students’ free time.


The Empowerment mentorship teaches high school students coping skills, constructive communication techniques, and how to reach out to positive adult figures in their lives when help is needed.

Sports Conditioning

Conditioning mentorships in the areas of soccer and baseball are provided at the high school level. 

Set to begin at the end of September 2020, the Resilience Hub is a project with Vibrant Hawaiʻi that will provide tutoring and support to kids whose caregivers may not be able to provide support or supervision to during the school day.

The Hub will take place at Overflow Church and initially take in the children of teachers, so that our educators may report to work without worrying about the schooling of their own keiki.

One of 10 centers on Hawaiʻi Island, the Resilience Hub is made possible in part by the CARES Act.

During its first year of operations, Piha me ka Pono offered medical training courses to interested high school students. The courses were extremely well received and provided the students with the training necessary to immediately begin work in the medical field upon graduation.

Hawaiʻi Energy

Hawaiʻi Energy

Pili A Paʻa has partnered with Hawaiʻi Energy to bring energy efficient appliances into the homes of North Kohala families. This wonderful partnership has been extended until the end of September, 2020.

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Recent News

Recent News

Na Makamae: Ross, Pili A Paʻa

October 30, 2019

Ross Pagat has been with our Pili a Paʻa program for 7 years and is known for his work ethic and aloha.

Pili A Paʻa Receives Grant for New Project

May 17, 2019

The donor-advised Nā ʻŌiwi Kāne Fund of the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation has awarded a grant of $18,150 to Hawaiian nonprofit Partners in Development Foundation (PIDF). The Fund aims to empower Native Hawaiians through programs focusing on transferring the traditional Hawaiian way of life to the most vulnerable members of our communities.

New technology for Big Island classrooms

March 7, 2015

SMART Board technology was installed by Pili A Paʻa staff in two of their training classrooms. One of the boards went to Kohala High School and the other went to Holualoa Elementary School.

Teaching With A Different Perspective

June 25, 2014

A first year teacher with Teach for America, Simone teaches 6th grade language arts and Kohala Middle School.