MA'O Organic Farms-Growing Food, Growing Youth

Brekke, Eunice
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2015]
MA‘O Organic Farms – Growing Food, Growing Youth is a study of the aspirations and experiences of youth from the Wai‘anae Coast of O‘ahu. The youth, many who are Native Hawaiian and first generation college students, are participants in the farm’s Youth Leadership Training program. The program is an indigenous, place-based program where in addition to working at the farm, the youth attend Leeward Community College to earn their Associate in Arts degree. This study used a participatory approach with semi-structured interviews of over 40 youth, program staff, and college instructors. The primary research questions were: 1) what are the central aspects of the program and how does this reflect Native Hawaiian values and practices? 2) how are youth experiencing the program? and, 3) what are the effects on participating youth? The results of this study indicate that youth identify strongly with Hawaiian values and practices of place and caring for the land, specifically aloha ‘aina and malama ‘aina. Youth develop a strong sense of place and commitment to their community, as well as a sense of responsibility to the future generation and their roles as leaders in creating a sustainable future for their community and for Hawai‘i. The youth also develop critical life skills from the farm – a strong work ethic, team work, and learning how to become leaders and managers. In describing their experiences with education, youth identified managing a number of challenges including negotiating highly negative stereotypes about Hawaiians and youth from Wai‘anae; a public school experience largely characterized by low expectations; and learning the realities of entering college, often academically unprepared. Yet, these youth persist, often with the support of a significant person in their family, strong peer support from other interns, as well as guidance and inspiration from older peer mentors and program staff. These findings support the research on educational disparities for Native Hawaiians. These youth have not been served well by Hawai‘i’s public school system where schools, particularly those with large percentages of Native Hawaiians, are of poor quality. The importance of valuing the culture, particularly, Hawaiian values and the connection to land and ancestry is highlighted in this study.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2015.
Includes bibliographical references.
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