November 6, 2023

Supporting Success for Native Students

By Allison Layland and Melly Wilson
Credit: Sheryl Turbeville, HSPCSC

Region 19 Comprehensive Center (R19CC), in collaboration with the Academic Development Institute (ADI), and the Hawai‘i State Public Charter School Commission (HSPCSC), coordinated a visit for Tsistsistas (Cheyenne) and Hinono’ei (Arapaho) tribal leaders from Oklahoma to visit and learn alongside Hawai‘i public charter schools, the HSPCSC, and the Hawai‘i Department of Education’s Office of Hawaiian Education (OHE).

The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes recently received a State Tribal Education Partnership (STEP) Grant from the U.S. Department of Education. This grant will support planning and design for a new charter school that will strive torevitalize Cheyenne and Arapaho languages and culture through culturally sustaining curriculum and instruction. This work directly aligns with the Tribes’ mission to restore their languages and preserve their historical, cultural, traditional, and spiritual relations for future generations.

Credit: Sheryl Turbeville, HSPCSC

ADI and ImaginEd are partners supporting the STEP grant charter school design team.  Carrie Whitlow, Executive Director of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Department of Education, along with Deidra Flurry, STEP Project Director, Teresa Dorsett, Chief of Staff, and three legislators from Arapahoe Districts were welcomed by the HSPCSC, OHE, and R19CC and had the opportunity to observe Hawaiian language immersion and culture rich educational activities at Ka ‘Umeke Kā’eo School, Ka Waihona o Ka Na’auao Public Charter School, and Ke Kula ‘o Samuel M. Kamakau Charter School, resulting in a powerful exchange of hopes, ideas, and work to ensure Native children have opportunity to learn and grow in culturally sustaining learning environments that reflect and honor Native language, culture, and traditions. 

“It was an honor to assist in connecting the Cheyenne and Arapahoe members with our Hawaiian language and culture kula.  To be able to listen to the aspirations of our visitors from Oklahoma as well as the insights from our Hawaiian school leaders was enlightening for me.  The power education can play in culture revitalization was clearly evident.” – PJ Foehr, Interim Executive Director, SPCSC 


The Hawai‘i-based charter school leaders and staff shared valuable insights to the challenges they have faced in starting and sustaining high-quality charter schools that support Native Hawaiian children in sustaining strong identity and connection to their culture, language, and land. The Tribal members also met with two of the HSPCSC Commissioners, Makalapua Alencastre and Lehua Veincent, to learn first-hand about policies and oversight of charter schools. The Commissioners additionally reflected on their experiences engaging Native Hawaiian students, families, and the broader community in conversation to ensure that Native Hawaiian students are thriving and that schools are succeeding making school and future careers relevant to the pressing needs of Native communities.

R19CC additionally coordinated time and facilitated discussion between Tribal members and OHE staff who generously shared detail about Hawaiian education across Hawaiʻi’s K-12 public education system, the development and administration of the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program (Ka Papahana Kaiapuni) curriculum, standards, and Hawaiian language formative and summative assessments.

The visit was filled with multiple opportunities to interact with and learn from HSCPSC Commissioners, leadership staff, as well as Charter school practitioners on the successes and challenges of growing high-quality public charter schools that sustain and perpetuate native languages and culture. Relationships forged between Hawai‘i educators and the Cheyenne and Arapaho delegation during this visit will enable continued peer-to-peer collaboration and the sharing of relevant tools and resources with the goal of strengthening and sustaining opportunity for Native students.


To learn more, the HSPCSC has developed a short highlight video of the visit, available to view here.

Credit: Sheryl Turbeville, HSPCSC
Credit: Melly Wilson, R19CC
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