Green Card Youth Voices: O'ahu - Green Card Voices

In March of 2023, members of the Hawaiʻi Department of Education as well as teachers of various high schools in Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi met with Tea Rozman, oral historian and Co-Director of Programs and Partnerships of Green Card Voices at the International TESOL Conference in Portland, Oregon. The topic of discussion was the 8th installment of the Green Card Youth Voices series focusing on three high schools on the Oʻahu island in Hawaiʻi.

Different teachers from those High Schools for the past four years as well as the University Partner, Hawaiʻi Pacific University as a stakeholder in Hawaiʻi informed Green Card Voices of the increased numbers of newcomers to the island of Hawaiʻi and the lack of representation of their stories on the island. The work of Green Card Voices has very much inspired them and they were eager to explore ways to partner.

Following the initial meeting in Portland, Oregon, a virtual meeting was set up and Greg and Gina from the Department of Education of the State of Hawaiʻi stated that they will try to allocate the funds necessary to carry out the project. 

At that time, Tea Rozman reached out to Jean Kirchenmann of the Hawaiʻi Pacific University to explore a possible partnership with graduate students of EL studies to do a practicum as part of the book project. Jean, who has been using Green Card Voice books with her graduate students for many years, expressed strong interest and interest for University of Hawaiʻi colleagues who also wanted to be considered for partnership.

In April 2024, Green Card Voices and their production team traveled to Hawaiʻi to begin recording the stories of young storytellers attending Pearl City High School or Waipahu High School. Like previous digital youth video projects, this collection aims to foster a deeper, more empathetic understanding of immigrants by highlighting the extraordinary stories of 17 diverse (im)migrant students living on the island of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi.

The 17 multilingual im(migrant) storytellers are ages 15-18 and are currently living on the island of Oʻahu, Hawai‘i. They bring with them incredible diversity with various languages, ethnicities, islands, states, and countries; originally from Micronesia, specifically Chuuk and Pohnpei, the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, American Sāmoa, and Tonga. They speak languages such as Chuukese, Ilokano, Tagalog, Marshallese, Pohnpeian, Samoan, Tongan, and a few other languages.

Using a trauma-informed approach to storytelling, these students courageously shared their personal experiences, guided by six open-ended questions. Their stories, narrated during the recordings, have been transcribed and used as the foundation for their digital videos, essays, and 300-word biography. 

Each digital recording is 5-8 minutes long that highlights their unique journeys from their birth country to Hawai‘i. As well as a question on how their life has changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most importantly, this storytelling collection provides a platform for these young voices to express the complexities of their identities and experiences who are often underrepresented, misunderstood, and silenced. We hope the voices of these storytellers foster a deeper understanding and connection within the community, celebrating the rich tapestry of this collective culture.

Seventeen storytellers ages fifteen to eighteen, seven young men and ten young women, attend two major high schools in Oʻahu: Pearl City High School and Waipahu High School. 

Pearl City High School

Pearl City High School (PCHS) is a public school that takes pride in their endless opportunities promised to all. It was established in 1971 and located on the slopes of the Ko’olau Mountain range and overlooks historic Pearl Harbor. PCHS has an approximate enrollment of 1,599 students in grades 9 through 12. The student population is ethnically diverse. The dominant ethnic groups are Asian (55.3%), Pacific Islander (26.7%), White (8.1%), Hispanic (2.7%), and Black (2.3%). PCHS “trust that our voices are heard and our passions explored.” 

Waipahu High School

Waipahu High School (WHS) has a vision set to “provide student-centered educational programs that challenge all students to perform at their highest potential.” It was founded in 1938 under the Sessions Laws of 1937 and Act 191 of 1938 to give students in Aiea, Pearl City, Waipahu, Ewa, Nanakuli and Waianae better educational opportunities. The ethnic groups at WHS are Asian (66%), Hawaiian (21%), Students are Two or more races (6%), Hispanic (5%), Black (1%), and White (1%). WHS prides its unique traditions throughout the year. 

Hawai‘i Pacific University

Hawai‘i Pacific University (HPU) is an international learning community set in the rich cultural context of Hawai‘i. It is home to more than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students, drawing learners from Hawai’i, the mainland, and more than 100 countries around the world. Renowned for its innovative programs, HPU continually anticipates and responds to the evolving needs of the global community. The University is dedicated to preparing its graduates to thrive as engaged, informed, and active members of a rapidly changing world. Through its commitment to academic excellence and cultural diversity, HPU equips students with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in an interconnected global society.

A big mahalo to the village for making this youth storytelling digital collection possible. 

We extend our deepest gratitude to Greg Uchishiba and the Hawai‘i Department of Education for their generous funding and unwavering support.

A heartfelt thank you to the dedicated teachers who have worked tirelessly to amplify these important stories. At Pearl City High School: Kalika Ayin; and at Waipahu High School: Jeremiah Brown, Lori Murakami, Jiamin Ruan, and Chloe Maeshiro.

Special thanks to Jean Kirschenmann at Hawai‘i Pacific University and her incredible university students: Naoyuki Hamada, Kylie Asuncion, Eric Cruz-Alvarado, Jada Bruno, Amanda Chhour, Camryn Potter, Haley Coppock, Keegan Jones, Miki Davidson, and Venus Mairena, for their invaluable contributions.

We also wish to acknowledge the outstanding efforts of the Green Card Voices team and volunteers: Aaliyah Hannah, Julie Vang, Tea Rozman, Angelica Torralba-Olague, Michael Hay, Kou Lee, Kelly Rynda, and our Board Members.

Much love to all the supporters, families, community leaders, and partners for showing your endless support.

Mahalo nui loa to the youth storytellers who have contributed and made this project possible. Your stories are a gift to this world and will live on for generations to come. We are so proud of you all!