September 29, 2016

LHES Foundation: Education Beyond the Classroom

Photo of Lanai children at LHES outdoor event.
Photo of Lanai children at LHES outdoor event.

The LHES Foundation strives to create educational opportunities to support Lanai youth.

The Lanai High and Elementary School Foundation (LHES Foundation) is something of a hybrid. It’s one-part Parent Teacher Association and one-part education focused nonprofit. The resulting mix is an organization that strives to better the lives of youth on Lanai through engaging events and programs that involve the arts, athletics and STEM.

Like a few other nonprofits on Lanai, LHES Foundation is sustained by enthusiastic volunteers, fundraising activities, and a handful of grants. The organization’s largest source of funding is from 21st Century Community Learning Centers, a part of the No Child Left Behind Act managed by the Department of Education.

The grant funding is specific to non-school hours, such as afterschool care, academic breaks and summer sessions. As a result, the LHES Foundation focuses on ways to extend education beyond the classroom.

Fun and Educational Programing

Each year the LHES Foundation collaborates with a number of community partners to host events for students of all ages. For example, the foundation will work with Pulama Lanai and Kakou, the PTA segment of the LHES Foundation, to host the upcoming Lanai Keiki Day and big truck event. Lanai kids will visit educational booths and learn about construction trucks, while also enjoying food and games.

Another fun event to look forward to is the “Fun in the Sun Carnival” on the last day of school. The 2016-2017 academic year culminates with a fundraising event featuring student-run games and prizes. Last year’s carnival brought in $1,300 in a single afternoon.

Eyes on Higher Education

The LHES Foundation is also committed to engaging middle and high school students with the idea of pursuing higher education.

“Our goal is to get our kids traveling, touring colleges, attending programs on neighbor islands and engaging in sports,” says Natalie Ropa, president of the LHES Foundation. “Our focus for this upcoming year will be developing college and career pathways in fields like marine science and biomedicine.”

These pathways will piggyback on programs already in the works, including the Lanai Design Program, a STEM curriculum for students K-12, and fieldtrips planned to the University of Hawaii for health summits and other conferences.

Another important program is the LHES College and Career Project Dual Enrollment Course, which enables students to take summer courses at the UH Maui College extension in Lanai City, and earn both high school and college credits. LHES Foundation supports the program through tuition scholarships, tutoring services and college counseling for all participants.

A new program Ropa is proud of is NFL flag football league for middle and high school students. LHES Foundation partnered with the Lanai Police Station, Lanai Fire Station and Pulama Lanai to host the program.

“We had three teams, with over 30 students participating and 15 adults who volunteered as coaches or referees,” says Ropa.

The pilot program was so well-received, that the foundation plans to run another league for third to fifth graders this winter.

How to Get Involved

Kakou is the Parent Teacher Student Association branch of the LHES Foundation, and according to Ropa a platform for anyone who wants to get involved with the school.

Kakou meets every other month at the LHES cafeteria and collaborates on projects including Lanai Keiki Day, teacher appreciation projects, the Teacher of the Year Award, and fundraising and volunteer support for teachers throughout the school year.

The foundation vets these programs at their bimonthly meetings, and the board of seven community members votes on initiatives. The foundation is currently allocating funding and laying out plans for the upcoming year.

“A few years ago we were just a hub, but now the foundation is transitioning into a more hands-on program,” says Ropa. “We are continuously seeking to grow the value education in our community, and so far we’ve been successful.”

Wondering how you can get involved with Kakou or access LHES Foundation’s resources? Email Natalie at

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