News: JVEF recognizes military volunteers for supporting Hawaii schools
Story by Kristen Wong
KAPOLEI, Hawaii — More than 300 people attended the Joint Venture Education Forum’s 12th annual meeting, Aug. 29, 2013 at The Salvation Army’s Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Kapolei.
Members of the community, military leaders, national and state legislators and school faculty members were invited to this year’s event, themed “Innovative Partnerships To Build the Future.”
“The purpose (of the JVEF meeting) is to highlight our initiatives, celebrate the year and emphasize our strategy for the way forward,” said Cherise Imai, military liaison for the Department of Education. “(During the meeting we) also to recognize individuals that have played a critical role in the organization.”
During the meeting, military personnel who have volunteered at local schools were recognized for their efforts.
Volunteers from Marine Corps Base Hawaii received certificates of appreciation for school support from providing manual labor at events to mentoring and tutoring students.
“Our Marines go out there and they definitely put forth a good effort,” said 1st Sgt. Jose Molina, first sergeant, Combat Logistics Company 35, Combat Logistics Battalion 3.
The unit was recognized earlier this year at the base’s annual Volunteer Recognition Ceremony as the Volunteer Unit of the Year.
Molina, a native of Murrieta, Calif., said he became involved in volunteering for several schools in the community through his children.
For Molina, volunteering at the school allows him to spend time with his children as well as set a good example for them. His volunteer efforts varied from chaperoning field trips to assisting with campus beautification at Kailua Elementary School.
Although Molina encourages Marines to enjoy the islands, he also
encourages them to volunteer.
“If you’re going to be here in Hawaii, enjoy the sites, do everything, have fun,” Molina said. “But don’t get caught up in the night life in Waikiki.”
Molina advises his Marines to volunteer with the children, not for recognition but because they want to work with them.
Lance Cpl. Noah Wu, reconfigurable transportable consolidated automated support system technician with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 24, was also one of the Marines recognized.
The native of San Jose, Calif., volunteers both at Mokapu and Aikahi Elementary Schools. Wu’s volunteer efforts included exercising with the children and reading Dr. Seuss books to the Mokapu students in honor of the author’s birthday. He said he enjoys working with children and wanted to give back to the community.
“We’ve gathered here today to honor the partnership between the state of Hawaii, our military and its collective community,” said Illinois Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, who shared a video message during the event. “It’s inspiring to see so many individuals and organizations join together to make an enduring impact on Hawaii’s children.”
Duckworth has military and Hawaii ties, graduating from President William McKinley High School and the University of Hawaii, and currently serving in the Illinois Army National Guard. Duckworth is also an Iraqi War veteran and Purple Heart recipient.
Wendy Nakasone, director, School Support Services, U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, received the Outstanding Military Contributor Award and Faye Toyama, the now-retired principal of Lehua Elementary School in Pearl City, Hawaii, received the Outstanding Civilian Contributor Commendation Award.
Peggy Leone, director of the Education Division at U.S. Pacific Command, nominated Toyama, who has been heavily involved in JVEF and contributed to one of Lehua Elementary’s biggest achievements.
“Her continued commitment to this organization is evident in the many leadership duties she has fulfilled as well as the many committees she has served on,” Leone said of Toyoma.
“Receiving the award was a surprise to me,” Toyama said. “I think I’m most grateful for the opportunity to work with JVEF because it’s such a wonderful experience. I always ask my colleagues to be part of that group because it’s such a great partnership with the military and the schools have benefited so much. But it’s not just the schools the students, the staff and the parents who all benefit from everything that we do together.”
Among other efforts, Nakasone promoted the Blended Learning Program at Schofield Barracks’ Hale Kula Elementary among students who are homeschooled.
The Blended Learning Program incorporates learning in the classroom and online.
“Ms. Nakasone’s dedication and commitment to enhancing the education of children and the JVEF is unparalleled,” said Michael Amarosa, director of Directorate Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, who nominated Nakasone.
The forum was created in 1998 by former U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, former Adm. Dennis Blair, commander, U.S. Pacific Command and Paul LeMahieu, then-state superintendent of education. Through JVEF, the Department of Defense provides financial support to local public schools and the military children who attend them.
“The words ‘joint venture’ and ‘education forum’ were selected very intentionally,” said Jennifer Sabas, the keynote speaker for the event and former chief of staff for the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. “The goal was to provide a forum, a place where parties or partners as a joint venture would come together and talk about issues related to education, hopefully resolve them and chart a path forward. (Inouye) would be so pleased that you are back here again working together for the children.”