Hōkūlani Holt-Padilla received the Kamehameha Schools 2015 Native Hawaiian Community Educator of the Year award as part of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement’s (CNHA) annual Native Hawaiian Convention.
A well-known kumu hula, educator and cultural practitioner, Holt-Padilla founded Pā‘ū O Hi‘iaka hālau hula, and continues her ‘ohana’s hula legacy, passed to her from her mother and grandmother and on to the kumu hula who went through ‘ūniki under her, including her son Lono Padilla, Kahulu Maluo and Nāpua Greig.
She also serves as the Maui Arts & Cultural Center cultural programs director, a position she’s held since 2001. Through this work she has coordinated and directed numerous Hawaiian language and cultural events.
“I agree with all those that say the education is the way for our people to prosper,” shares Holt-Padilla.
“Every cultural practice, everything that you learn within your own homes, everything you can teach your children or your grandchildren is important. Never give up your right to be involved in the education of your family. Education is every day.”
Culture is at the core of most everything she does. She is a founding member of Kauahea Inc., Lālākea Foundation, Nā Kinimakalehua, Nā Lehua Kū Makua and Nā Kūkulu—organizations dedicated to the advancement of Hawaiian cultural practices.
“Aunty Hōkū is a proud kūpuna, makua and educator. Her legacy is educating haumāna about our Hawaiian culture through her own hālau, the programs she has established at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, her collaboration efforts with many organizations statewide and through her own keiki,” said Kamehameha Schools Hawaiian Resource Coordinator Kalani Pe‘a, who nominated Holt-Padilla for the award.
Pe‘a was directly impacted by Holt-Padilla’s work, collaborating with her through KS’ Ho‘olauna Maui program. This past summer, Holt-Padilla helped teach students the mele “Ka Wai a Kāne” and its connection to the hydrological cycle and significance to Maui’s watershed.
“All that she wants is to know that her Lāhui is prosperous, content and thriving in all of our communities,” shares Pe‘a.
“Kamehameha Schools is proud to recognize the works of this amazing woman and her legacy in inspiring generations of students to know and embrace Hawaiian culture,” said Kamehameha Schools CEO Jack Wong.
The Native Hawaiian Community Educator of the Year award recognizes visionary education leaders in the Hawai‘i community who create learning environments that successfully engage Native Hawaiian learners. Award recipients are contributors to the practice and perpetuation of Hawaiian culture and/or language and are known for involving families and communities in the learning process. Last year’s award recipient was Wai‘anae Intermediate School teacher Maika‘i Spencer.