Rapozo grew up in Niumalu and remembers when she and her cousins played in the river and watershed. Over time, the Red Mangrove has dramatically taken over the area, compromising the water quality and wildlife. Today, waters by Niumalu Park are choked off. The plant’s air roots collect sediment, which creates islands of dirt that fill and cover up the natural wetlands.
The two-day project resulted in a remarkable visible difference. Chain saws buzzed, mangrove trees were cut down to the water line, and volunteers dragged 10-25 feet tall tree branches out of wet estuary lands.
The determined community team was rewarded at the end of their long days by a fish fry feast cooked up by Malama Hule`ia Board member Pepe Trask. Menehune Water Company and Starbucks Coffee donated water and coffee.
Of the project, Rapozo said she was “rewarded with a feeling of accomplishment of service.” For all participants, there was deep appreciation for the ‘aina of historic Niumalu.
Rapozo believes that students, who have been given opportunities to advance in college with help from scholarships, should be willing to give back to their community. Kaua`i CC encourages leadership development through mentorship, internship and service-learning civic engagement to do this as part of the college learning experience. Rapozo, one of the original students recruited
four years ago to the Wai`ale`ale Project scholarship program, has been able to continue working full time and raising her family while attending school. She will graduate Fall 2013 with an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts and transfer this spring to University of Hawai`i West Oahu to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology via distance learning.
The Wai`ale`ale Project provides academic support through tutoring, mentoring, summer college-readiness programs and on-going academic support to students who wouldn't normally be able to attend college without community support. Working with community organizations, the scholarship, founded by a single donor, has grown and expanded due to the generous contributions of organizations such as OHA, Kamehameha Schools, and individuals. Students are recruited by organizations within the community who are resource referral partners focused on student success. For more information about Lisa Rapozo and the Kaua`i CC Wai`ale`ale Project, watch the 3-minute video produced by UH Foundation at the following link:
To find out more about the work at Malama Hule`ia or community groups who are looking for community service opportunities should contact Mason Chock at http://malamahuleia.org/
Collaboratively written by Bevin Parker-Evans with Cammie Matsumoto