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KS Kapālama Kumu Rita Kalaukoa, advisor of the school’s Advocacy Club, credits her students including club co-founder and co-president Joshua Ching KSK’22 for their passionate and innovative displays of leadership. Ching and fellow KS students were honored as part of the Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i Youth Council, which was recognized for its year-round work with local leaders and political influencers to protect kids and vulnerable communities from the harmful effects of tobacco.

KS students honored as National Group Youth Advocates of the Year

Sept. 29, 2021

A group of Kamehameha Schools students representing all three campuses received national recognition for its leadership while helping fellow students across the state in the fight against tobacco.

Kamehameha Schools Kapālama seniors Joshua Ching and Logan Lau, and junior Chanel Matsumoto collaborated with junior Aubrey Ahana from KS Maui and freshman Julie Nacionales from KS Hawai‘i as part of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i Youth Council. The students were part of the cohort selected as National Group Youth Advocates of the Year, and were recognized officially during the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ annual celebration event held virtually on Sept. 29, 2021, in Washington D.C.

Each year, the Youth Council hosts “Taking Down Tobacco Day,” wherein keiki from various islands and schools make their voices heard as one by meeting with lawmakers at the State Capitol to advocate for policies geared toward stopping the tobacco industry from targeting young people.

Ching explains that he first got involved with the anti-tobacco effort as a freshman. “I heard a presentation about the tobacco industry, and what struck me was how it specifically targets and exploits the Native Hawaiian community. This is something that is actually impacting the lāhui negatively in a tangible way,” he said.

He eventually established a role on the council’s leadership team because he wanted to make a positive difference. He meets with legislators and neighborhood board members, heads the sign-waving committee and is the liaison between the Youth Council and the larger Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i.

“I’m definitely interested in going into politics, and I hope to study political science and race studies, and maybe go to law school to make a difference for my community,” Ching said. “One of the most impactful ways to make improvements in society is to fight for or against the laws that impact us directly.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting in-person plans this year, the Youth Council organized rallies, murals and other socially distanced demonstrations across Hawaiʻi to increase awareness, improve education and build grassroot support. The group also hosts presentations throughout the year to educate peers and community members across Hawaiʻi.

In addition to their day of action, Youth Council members work year-round with local leaders on policies to protect kids and vulnerable communities from the harmful effects of tobacco.

In Hawaiʻi, tobacco use claims 1,400 lives and costs $526 million in health care bills each year. Currently, 5.3% of Hawai‘i’s high school students smoke cigarettes and 30.6% use e-cigarettes, according to the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i.

To combat the toll that tobacco takes on communities across Hawaiʻi, the Youth Council advocates to end the sale of flavored tobacco products and is working to preserve dedicated funding for tobacco prevention and quit-smoking programs.

Rita Kalaukoa, an AP psychology and Hawaiian history kumu, serves as the advisor for KS Kapālamaʻs Advocacy Club that provides students with a forum to identify issues in the community and formulate potential solutions. The club first took root in the second semester of the 2019-2020 school year, and after a great deal of planning and implementation, it became an official school club last year. Ching is the club’s co-president and co-founder.

“I’m very impressed with our students because they take the initiative and use the skills they have acquired to make a difference,” Kalaukoa said. “Recently, they conducted a training session for their peers who lead different leadership committees that included everything they’ve learned and experienced, and put together this presentation without my help. They did it by watching what is done for them, and doing what is necessary to help themselves, and that’s when learning takes place. I even borrowed aspects of that presentation for when I teach!

“They have a vision, and know what they want to do after acquiring these skills as the next generation of leaders. They’re the captains and they steer this ship, and I follow along closely. I’m so proud of them.”
 

They have a vision, and know what they want to do after acquiring these skills as the next generation of leaders. They’re the captains and they steer this ship, and I follow along closely. I’m so proud of them.
Rita Kalaukoa KSK AP psychology and Hawaiian history kumu


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