When Palama Settlement announced the start of virtual coding classes for youth in June of this year, Blaze did not want to join. He had no prior experience with coding and his parents had to bargain with him to enroll in the class. Fast forward four months and Blaze is now one of the most active and enthusiastic participants, coming to each session prepared with questions and ideas to share with his peers. “At first he didn’t want to join because he didn’t know what it was,” said his mother. “I had to bargain with him to try it out and now he’s so grateful that I signed him up. He loves it!”
These virtual coding classes are an ongoing activity through Palama Settlement, taught by Anna Gustafson and assisted by Kasey Kawaguchi. The classes consist of prerecorded video lessons, which Anna films and Kasey then edits and uploads to Google Classroom so students can learn at their own pace. The youth then comes together twice a week for virtual “office hours” with Anna and Kasey, which began as a check in and chance for them to ask questions but quickly became a more collaborative, social space for students to help each other debug their projects and play together.
There are 18 youth registered in coding class at Palama, ranging from age 7 to 13 years. The self-paced curriculum allows Anna to juggle various learning levels, from beginner to advanced. For each level there is different curriculum, all developed by Anna. The beginner students work within Scratch, a block-based visual programming language, to make puzzle platform style games similar to Super Mario. The advanced students work in Unity, a real-time, 3D game creation software used by real world games like NASCAR Heat 5, Call of Duty: Mobile, and Wasteland 3.
Some students like to create marble-run games based around the mechanics of physics, while others prefer more combat-style scrolling games that make use of running and shooting actions. Anna challenges students to think creatively about how to use these actions within their games without making them violent. For instance, one student created a garden that is invaded by rabbits, but instead of chasing and shooting them, the player must feed them until they get very fat and then coax them out of the garden.
Palama’s coding class is unique in that the students guide their own learning experience. They watch the tutorials and develop their own games. Since the program is ongoing, they are able to tell Anna what they enjoy doing, what they’d like to learn next, and how they want to learn it so she can develop new curriculum tailored to their needs and interests. “Projects are not graded so there’s no pressure if students aren’t keeping up with the rest of the class,” explains Anna. “Participation is always voluntary, so it is up to the kids to decide whether they want to play in the space or not.” This level of autonomy has worked well for the class, with over half the students voluntarily attending check-in every single week and staying for the full hour, even asking that the time be extended by another hour.
The classes provide the students with much more than just coding lessons. The weekly check-ins are a chance for social interaction while school is remote and spending time together in person is impossible. One student, Kyle, told Anna he has not left his house – even for a walk – since March, but he doesn’t mind. He is the oldest and most advanced in the coding class but still attends each check-in and stays for the full session. As a teenager, Kyle is usually a little more reserved than the younger students but comes out of his shell when he is working with them to debug their games.
Coding has provided a fun and supportive space for all students, particularly during the transition of schools to distance learning. The students found the start of school in August to be overwhelming, with new demands and challenges and simply a lot of time in front of the computer. But the class is an activity they can choose for themselves, which offers an outlet for creativity, for fun, and for socialization.
If you would like to help support Palama’s coding program, your donation of $30 covers the cost of one two-hour class plus the week’s curriculum for one student. You can make your gift by visiting www.palamasettlement.org/donate or mailing a check to 810 N. Vineyard Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96817. Please make a note with your online donation or on your check that your gift is for “Coding Classes”. Mahalo!
Palama Settlement has launched a new endeavor called the Xcel Program, to provide students with the resources they need to be successful in their distance learning. Many students are struggling to attend class and complete their work now that school has moved online, due to a number of factors which may include not having access to a computer, not having access to wifi, not having a quiet space at home to focus on the class, or not having a home environment that provides enough guidance and support. Palama is hoping to address these needs by opening up the Henry & Colene Wong Computer Center and the Cecilia Blackfield Academic Center for small groups of middle and high school students. Both spaces have all the equipment students might need for class and allow for social distancing of six feet or more.
The seven students currently participating in the Xcel Program attend McKinley and St. Theresa. They are also Pakolea Program football players with Palama. Five of the seven students do not have access to a computer and none of the students have access to wifi at home. All were recruited to participate in the program through outreach to their families after the Hawaii Department of Education made the announcement that public schools would move fully online through October 2.
Recreation Director Pi`i Minns and Pakolea Program Manager Jeremiah Ostrowski (both also Pakolea coaches) oversee the Xcel Program. Palama’s Education Director Kim Corbin and Youth Specialist Sharlaine Hesira are also available for in-person and virtual tutoring when students need extra help with their work.
The staff has been actively encouraging students to participate in class and ask questions, after it was made clear multiple students were struggling with their assignments. The students are often too embarrassed to ask questions or seek help because they see it as a sign of weakness instead of a sign of strength. It was only after the coaches sat down with the youth to talk to them about the importance of keeping up with their academics that they began to ask more questions and make the effort to complete make up work.
The Xcel Program will continue until schools can safely resume in person.
This program is made possible, in part, through generous funding from Alexander & Baldwin and Douglas Emmett.
Palama Settlement’s campus is closed to the public until further notice, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. This includes all Senior Program activities, access to our pool and Leland Blackfield Youth Activity Center, Ho`opa`a Kakou After School Program, and all team sports through the Pakolea Program. The safety of our program participants, clients, and staff is most important to us. We will keep our website updated and more information is always available by calling our main line at (808) 845-3945.
The one service that is not suspended is our Emergency Food Pantry. We welcome clients from anywhere on Oahu. Pickups are contact-less to protect our clients as well as our staff. Please wear a mask and stay in your car when stopping by campus to pick up your food distribution. To make an appointment with our food pantry, call (808) 848-2528 or (808) 848-2529.
Mahalo for your understanding and cooperation. Stay safe!
Thank you to Hawaii News Now and Kainoa Carlson for featuring Palama Settlement’s Emergency Food Pantry this morning! Check out the segment about our Community Services manager Pauni Escue and the work she and her team are doing to address food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic.
Palama’s free grab-and-go keiki meals are now available during lunch time from 11:00-12:00 PM. We will no longer be serving suppers in the late afternoon. Pick up is still in the front parking lot at 810 N. Vineyard Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96817. Just drive up and let our staff know how many meals you need for your keiki (any youth under the age of 18 years).
We have changed the time of our meals so we can serve the two youth programs that have restarted on campus – Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) and In-Community Treatment Program (ICTP). SEP and ICTP are now in session on campus in a modified format and are benefiting from the summer lunch program. Meals are still available to the general public; keiki do not need to be enrolled in a program on campus to pick up a meal.
After two long months of being closed and suspending all but essential activities at Palama Settlement, we are excited to announce the start of two more activities this summer – our Summer Enrichment Program for keiki and Beginner Watercolor Class for kupuna.
Summer Enrichment Program is open to keiki grades K-5 and offers enriching, creative activities to encourage children to explore and learn about the world around them. This year, due to COVID-19, there are only 32 spots in the program available and children will be split into groups of eight to allow for social distancing. Masks will be required. There will be no field trips and more focus on arts and crafts, cooking, computer classes, and other activities on campus.
Beginner Watercolor Class will be taught by Dawn Yoshimura using Google Meet and Google Classroom. Students will need their own computer or tablet to participate in classes, plus art supplies, which may be purchased or rented. There is limited space in this class so call today to register!
Due to the government mandated statewide COVID-19 shutdown, most of us are staying home, working from home, and minimizing our trips to the grocery store. We’re seeing layoffs and financial instability among many of our families here in Hawaii. But we’re also seeing some really wonderful examples of the Spirit of Aloha and ohana during this time of uncertainty, and these gestures give us hope and encouragement.
Since March 30 we have been serving free grab-and-go lunches to keiki and youth, thanks to a partnership with Kapi`olani Community College, Aloha Harvest, Hawaii Appleseed, and Hawaii Child Nutrition Programs. We know many children in our neighborhood qualify for free or reduced lunches and rely on that daily meal. Palama’s lunch is a valuable replacement for school meals, helping to lower the weekly family grocery bill and simply making one less task for parents during a long day of juggling work, academic assignments, and housework. Families are able to drive into our parking lot and stay in their car while our staff brings out the boxed lunches to their trunk, to minimize contact.
Local businesses have stepped up to help, too. Meadow Gold Hawaii donated cartons of yogurt and juice to KCC, which were included with the lunch distributions this week and given out to families. And HMSA has made a monetary donation to help offset the costs incurred by the program.
Beginning on April 13, Palama will switch to serving grab-and-go keiki suppers from 3:30 to 4:30 to round out a full day of meals, while Likelike Elementary will begin to serve breakfast and lunch.
Our emergency food pantry is also open. In the last week and a half we have served over 1,300 people through our food pantry distributions. This week we have begun deliveries of pantry items to kupuna as well, to better serve those who do not have the transportation to come to campus. Both individual donors and local businesses have made incredible contributions to support our pantry, giving both monetary gifts and donations of food. Fresh Island Delights LLC has donated almost 800 fresh fruit bowls and Ham Produce and Seafood has made multiple donations of potatoes, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, lettuce, snap peas, and mushrooms. Both contributions ensure families receive not only canned goods, but fresh produce too.
The Henry and Colene Wong Foundation has made a monetary donation to the Hawaii Foodbank to be used by Palama as credit for purchases, which will go a long way in keeping the pantry stocked through this crisis. Every1ne Hawaii has donated 700 surgical masks and 50 KN95 masks to Palama to help keep everyone safe. The surgical masks will be distributed in the kupuna deliveries and the KN95 masks will be worn by our staff while they interact with the community.
The efforts of our staff and the generous spirit of our donors has made a big impression on our clients. One kupuna called us yesterday to thank Palama for the delivery of food. She wanted to express her aloha and gratitude, saying the box really made a difference to her family, who has no car to get to the store. Another mother told us before she received her food pantry distribution, she only had one egg at home and cooked it and cut it in half to share with her daughter.
We are heartened by our community sharing their resources with those in need, especially in this difficult and stressful period. We want to say mahalo nui loa to each of our donors and partners for supporting us and enabling us to further our mission.
Mahalo to Supporters of Our Essential Services (as of April 27, 2020):
Bruce Alameida, in memory of Emilia Alameida
Sharon Nagasako, in memory of Roy and Gladys Yoshimura
Sherry Mae Ravago
Terry Viergutz, in memory of Sabina Imbo Plaza McWilliams
Alexander & Baldwin
Create with Clay Hawaii, Inc.
D. Otani Produce
Fresh Tropical Delights LLC
Ham Produce and Seafood
Cooke Foundation, Ltd.
German Benevolent Society
Henry and Colene Wong Foundation
Have you lost your job or been furloughed due to the pandemic? Are you in need of food assistance? If so, our emergency food pantry is here to serve you. To help protect the health of you and our staff, we will not be taking any walk-ins until further notice. If you would like to access the pantry, we ask that you call in advance and make an appointment with our staff. You may contact Ms. Pauni at (808) 848-2528 or Ms. Lani at (808) 848-2529.
We can also deliver food from the pantry to kupuna in Kalihi-Palama who are without transportation. Should you or a homebound family member need this service, please call our staff to arrange for delivery.
This summer, in partnership with the Women’s Fund of Hawai`i, the Association of American University Women (Honolulu Branch), and Ceeds of Peace, Palama Settlement is excited to announce Girls Talk Back, a program for teen girls focused on developing leadership, peacebuilding, social justice skills. The cohort of 20 girls will spend four weeks together, honing their skills and learning how to apply them to address community issues outside the classroom. At the end of the program, participants will present their projects and progress in a TED Talk-style forum, which they may use as an opportunity to launch both financial and in-kind campaigns to garner support for their projects.
Thanks to private funding, there is no registration fee to participate in the Girls Talk Back program. If you, or someone you know, are interested in joining this program, visit this link or click the image above to access the application form.
Girls Talk Back was created by a core partnership of Ceeds of Peace, AAUW Honolulu, and Women’s Fund of Hawai`i, who together identified gaps in the education system’s ability to develop underrepresented leaders, specifically women of color/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian women.