The Legacy of a princess

Kamehameha Schools was founded by the will of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the great-granddaughter of Kamehameha the Great.

Pauahi Legacy
Dr. Meahilahila Kelling Named Native Hawaiian Community Educator of the Year

Honolulu - (October 10, 2017) – In recognition of her work in educating Native Hawaiians over the past two decades, Dr. Meahilahila Kelling was honored with the Kamehameha Schools 2017 Native Hawaiian Community Educator of the Year award as part of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement’s (CNHA) Native Hawaiian Convention at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel & Resort.

The Native Hawaiian Community Educator of the Year award was presented on Tuesday, Oct. 10, and recognizes visionary education leaders in Hawai‘i who create learning environments that successfully engage Native Hawaiian learners. Award recipients are contributors to the practice and perpetuation of the Hawaiian culture and/or language and are known for involving families and communities in the learning process.

Kelling currently serves as Director of Ke Kula ʻo Samuel M. Kamakau Laboratory Public Charter School, a preschool-grade 12 Hawaiian medium school. The mother of three notes that “education actually found me” while she volunteered with the three-and-four-year-old students at Pūnana Leo o Kawaiaha‘o to fulfil her Hawaiian language requirement while attending the University of Hawai‘i.

“At that moment, I was committed. I realized the power of education and especially the significant impact that Hawaiian language and culture have on the total well-being of families and communities,” Kelling said.

Kelling then enrolled in Chaminade University’s teacher certification program before eventually earning a Master’s of Education degree in Early Childhood Education/Elementary Education as well as a Doctor of Education certification from the University of Southern California.

“I would welcome and encourage anyone considering Hawaiian culture-based education as a career with this ʻolelo noʻeau: ‘E lauhoe mai nā waʻa; i ke kā, i ka hoe, i ka hoe, i ke kā; pae aku i ka ʻāina,’ which translates as ‘Everybody paddle the canoes together, bail and paddle, paddle and bail and the shore is reached,’” Kelling said. “It takes everyone to paddle in unison to get to our destination and when we arrive, there are always other places to go.” 

“Dr. Kelling has devoted countless hours to the Hawaiian Focused Charter Schools (HFCS) and Kula Kaiapuni (Hawaiian Surrounding Environment Schools), and her dedication to the educational well-being of all Native Hawaiian learners exemplifies leadership in Hawaiian education,” said Kūamahi Community Education Managing Director Waiʻaleʻale Sarsona; Kūamahi is a division within Kamehameha Schools’ Community Engagement and Resources Group, which focuses on connecting KS and community resources to address educational needs specific to individual communities.

Kelling noted that there is still plenty of work to be done as HFCS are redefining “success” to include a student’s readiness to serve and lead their communities in addition to being college and career ready.

“We have developed a shared ‘vision of the graduate’ in a collaborative effort across all 17 HFCS and are currently piloting six Culturally Relevant Assessment tools to measure our students’ community, college and career readiness,” Kelling said. “Students are uplifted daily in our schools where learning is contextualized, and as they are rooted in their language and culture.” 


High resolution photos available via:

About Kamehameha Schools

Founded in 1887 by the legacy of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, Kamehameha Schools (KS) is a private, educational, charitable Native Hawaiian trust committed to improving the capability and wellbeing of our people through education. Income generated from its endowment portfolio of Hawai`i commercial real estate and other diverse investments funds more than 96 percent of KS’ educational mission.

In 2015, KS embarked on a bold, exciting voyage that envisions, in one generation, a thriving Lāhui in which learners achieve postsecondary educational success, enabling good life and career choices. Grounded in Christian and Hawaiian values, learners will be leaders who contribute to their communities both locally and globally.

At the heart of this new journey are those who share this vision to ensure that all Native Hawaiians have the opportunity to succeed. Strong community collaborations, donor participation and key state, national and international partnerships are vital to creating the means to propel learners onto knowledge and career paths of their choice.

For more information, visit and connect via Facebook and Instagram (@kamehamehaschools) and Twitter (@ksnews).