Give, grad, grow

Summit + Island Pacific Academy

Oahu K-12 Schools
Place Kapolei
Text Will Caron
Thread School of the Future

Island Pacific Academy (IPA) is an independent, non-profit, college preparatory, K-12 school located in Kapolei, O’ahu. Kindness, generosity of spirit and the importance of curiosity and creativity are core values at the heart of IPA’s mission. Furthermore, IPA provides students outstanding academic and extra-curricular experiences and promotes intellectual, physical and social growth among its students. IPA prepares young people for the challenges of post-secondary education and life in the 21st century.

It is traditional at Island Pacific Academy for the graduating senior class to provide a gift to the school. The class of 2013 erected a podium in the school’s multipurpose room; the 2014 seniors purchased and mounted a sign, which hangs proudly at the entrance to the school near Kapolei’s burgeoning main street. The class of 2015 purchased a water filtration system for the school, marking the transition to an eco-conscious culture which has eschewed disposable water bottles in favor of reusable personal containers.

The graduating class of 2016 took this a step further by turning their Project Grad night into an event that would be remembered by the broader community.

“Getting involved in our community is part of the DNA at IPA,” explains Hannah Button (‘18). Button’s older brother was a senior during the 2015–16 school year. His class collectively decided that they would use the money they had fundraised for Project Grad in a charitable capacity.

Spearheading the organization of the graduation event, Button polled her brother and his fellow seniors on their favorite charitable causes and which community issues were most important to them. She came up with a slogan for the project, “IPA Gives Back,” and rallied family and school friends to write letters to local companies soliciting donations for the top charities on the Class of 2016 list.

Button and her siblings are no strangers to charity work. In 2008, their mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the family experienced an outpouring of community support. To give back to the community that helped their family in its time of need, Button and her brother and sister founded the Dream of a Better World charity.

The foundation was a top pick on the students’ list. The charity matched funds raised by the class of 2016 to help community organizations, including the Wai‘anae Mountains Watershed Partnership ($1,000), the O‘ahu chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ($1,000), Fisher House at Tripler Hospital ($1,000) and the Art and P.E. programs at IPA.

“The Tripler Fisher House allows servicemen and women recovering at Tripler Army Medical Center to spend time with their families,” says Button. “But they have limited resources, and one of the things that they don’t really get to do is decorate and make the place feel truly like home. So the students collected supplies to help them brighten up the place, and planted a new garden at the home for the families to use.”

Helping to meet the needs of Hawai‘i’s homeless and food-insecure population was a major issue discussed by students. Since 2014, IPA has collected nearly 20,000 pounds of food for the Hawaii Foodbank. So, immediately following their commencement ceremony, the first stop on the students’ itinerary for the night was Target in Kapolei, where they participated in a scavenger hunt for food and other items that would help needy families across O‘ahu. Teams of eight now-alumni had 30 minutes to spend $300 for items on a “wish list” that included canned food, blankets, flashlights and first aid supplies. The team that got closest without going over the $300 limit won, and all of the supplies were donated to the Mualoa Food Bank at Sunset Beach Christian Church.

The IPA students recognized a need to help fellow young people in other schools who don’t always receive the same opportunities that IPA students do. The 2016 class donated $2,000 in matching gifts to Kahuku High School to assist some of their students with travel expenses to the 2016 National Science Competition in Tennessee.

“Many of these Kahuku students have never been off the island, and they had been working extremely hard to raise funds for this valuable experience,” says Kendra Martyn, science teacher and science fair mentor at Kahuku High School. “I was deeply moved that students from the other side of the island would join in our effort in such a big way.”

“There is a real need in our communities for members—including students—to help each other out,” says Button. “That’s what makes strong communities, and our students here at IPA are aware of that and feel the need to contribute. It’s what we’re taught and it’s how we learn.”

This sentiment is echoed by Michelle Bradley, IPA’s secondary vice principal, who taught most of the 2016 graduating class: “I was thrilled, but not surprised, that the 2016 IPA seniors wanted their Project Grad to be a living legacy for our community. They are bright, thoughtful and action-oriented, and have been great role models for all of our students.”

As an end-piece to “IPA Gives Back”, Bradley will be leading a group of IPA student volunteers to clear land and plant 39 different native species at the Wai‘anae Mountains Watershed during the Fall of 2016, in honor of the 39 graduates of the Class of 2016.

“The Class of 2016 has been a great example for the younger students at IPA, and I hope that ‘IPA Gives Back’ becomes something that can extend beyond Project Grad,” says Button.

The IPA Project Graduation 2016 will leave the community with nearly $7,000 in donations. Equally important is the example of community-conscious IPA students and graduates perpetuated through this senior gift.

From its perch on the southern end of the Wai‘anae mountain range, IPA is in a unique position to serve the entire community along the western coast of O‘ahu. There are more than 2,000 students in the Nānākuli-Wai‘anae Public School Complex, compared to the 500 students at IPA proper. Head of School Gerald Teramae has identified a valuable way of serving that broader community: Through a unique public-private partnership, the independent school is working with the Hawai‘i State Department of Education to provide professional development opportunities for the community’s public school teachers.

During an October 2016 workshop, nearly 700 teachers from throughout the Nānākuli-Wai‘anae Complex converged at IPA for a deep dive into the school’s pedagogy.

“We want to take away the perception that public and private institutions cannot share,” says Teramae. “We want all our children to be successful, whether they go to public or private schools.”


Summit is Hawaii's magazine of ideas and style for the global citizen. We're named for Queen Kapiolani's motto, "kulia i ka nuu," strive for the summit. Summit is available on fine newsstands throughout North America and the Asia-Pacific region.

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