Our Islands, Our Future

“We want to be ready when the community is ready for a charter school.” — Sommer “Kehau” Kimokeo, Keanae parent

Keanae mom Sommer “Kehau” Kimokeo says she and the nonprofit she founded aren’t giving up on a dream to build a charter school in their remote East Maui community. Ka Waianu o Haloa’s application to open a charter school for children living in East Maui is currently on hold at the state Department of Education, Kimokeo said. “We believe there’s still a need for a charter school,” said Kimokeo, the president and founder of Ka Waianu o Haloa. She’s also the mother of three children, ages 11, 10 and 4.

Ka Waianu o Haloa’s members include parents and grandparents of Keanae and Waialua schoolchildren who endure a one-hour bus ride on the narrow and winding Hana Highway to attend Hana High and Elementary School. The nonprofit’s name refers to the cold water of Haloa, a source that helps the community grow and prosper. Keanae School was officially closed by the state Board of Education the same year Ka Waianu o Haloa formed and entered into a lease agreement to use the campus facilities to run health programs and community activities for all ages. “Our goal ultimately is to open a charter school on the campus,” Kimokeo said. “Right now we’re focusing our energy on educational programs for families.” Kimokeo said there are 24 school-aged children in her community who could attend the charter school if it opened today.

Kimokeo said approximately 1,000 people attended the group’s fundraiser in July on the school grounds. “It was nice. A lot of people showed up and supported us,” she said. With the new school year opening, Kimokeo said she’s preparing to start up another round of educational weekend programs that offer lessons in fishing, coconut palm weaving and kapa making. “We’re still pursuing all the educational aspects of our nonprofit,” she said. For more information, contact Kimokeo at 248-7403; or visit