Our Islands, Our Future

Rick Rutiz with Hana School student, Christine Naihe.

Carpenter Rick Rutiz has developed an award-winning program that boosts self-esteem in Hana’s youth, while building much needed facilities in their community. The Hana School Building Program “Ma Ka Hana Ke ‘Ike” (“in working, one learns”) started 12 years ago with Rutiz guiding a small group of struggling high school students with a task to build a counselor’s office on their campus. From there, more students joined Rutiz’s program and they began tackling projects that required even more specialized skills such as artistic tiling, building with bamboo and renovating facilities to make them accessible to the handicapped. The program began with funding support from small contractors like Rutiz and has since won awards and grants from private citizens, government, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and private foundations.

Today, Ma Ka Hana Ke ‘Ike has graduated 100-plus students, many of whom have landed jobs in the construction field and others who went on to college, equipped with knowledge of how to use basic tools. “Many of our kids have not had an easy time in the classroom. But we found that through our program, they gained life skills, they built their self-esteem and they finally found something they can do and do well,” Rutiz said. “They have learned to find success in themselves.”

The newest component of the Hana Building Program features graduate apprentices who support Rutiz by mentoring younger students. “It’s just great to see them teach younger kids. Our apprentices are continuing to learn, but they’re also helping me with training so that we can perpetuate this program,” Rutiz said. “I’m very proud of my graduates. They’re incredible and most of them have surpassed what I thought they could do.” Rutiz said the program inspires him. “I get to work every day and see this lighting up of self-confidence and self-worth in my students. It’s awesome, absolutely awesome.”