INPEACE Began Active Operations in 1994.
In 1994, three visionary community-minded educators from Kauaʻi and Honolulu came together to create INPEACE. As Native Hawaiians, both Sherlyn and Alice brought their unique perspectives to the work. Together with Kathy, who had been working in Native Hawaiian education for years, they all had a strong commitment to community and culture-based education. Sharing food, traveling together, and having extensive conversations led to the following core principles and beliefs that ground the agency to this day:
- Education will improve quality of life.
- Community partnerships are essential to the educational process.
- Communities have resources and assets.
- Communities have the right to self-determination.
- Culturally grounded experiences are essential to the educational process.
- Cultural strengths support education.
The marriage of these ideas, along with relationships in the funding world, led to the birth of the first program Ka Lama O Ke Kaialulu. This program is a “grow-your-own-teacher” model, where community members are recruited to become teachers in their own community schools. Among the first graduates include Larrilyn Tamashiro, a Waiʻanae Coast resident and teacher who later became INPEACE’s board president, and Marci Waiʻaleʻale Sarsona, who went on to become the second CEO of INPEACE and is now at the Department of Hawaiian Homelands.
Another flagship program, Keiki Steps was conceived by Michelle Mahuka, who saw an ad on television about early childhood programs and wanted something for her child in her own community. Compelled by a passion to ensure that her son would be ready for school, Michelle approached the principal at Nānākuli Elementary about space to house a preschool program. She purchased supplies from local thrift shops and was willing to start her very own program with little else. Fortuitously, Michelle’s story was heard by then-CEO, Sherlyn Franklin Goo, who learned money was available from Office of Hawaiian Affairs to run educational programs. Together they started the first parent participation preschool at Nānākuli Elementary, where Michelle was also the first Keiki Steps teacher. Keiki Steps has grown from one site under a tree to thirteen sites statewide. The first growth spurt came from the parents and grandparents at the Nānākuli site. Joy Stevens went on to open a site at Waiʻanae Elementary, while Pat Mersberg opened Māʻili. Joy then went on to open Kamaile and Mākaha, along with NaLei Arsiga-Faurot. Incredibly, each of these coast community members remains with our INPEACE ʻohana, working at many of the same sites.
Funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) for Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) began a new chapter in the life of INPEACE. This grassroots effort to help children prepare for school and schools to prepare for children was born out of a relationship based on a presentation Kathy and Sherlyn gave during a pre-session on native peoples at the Council on Foundations here in Hawaiʻi. Three entities in Hawaiʻi were asked to submit proposals to WKKF, and after lunch in Nānākuli, Program Officer Val Johnson saw exactly where the hearts and minds of our founders were when it came to community. SPARK jettisoned INPEACE statewide and allowed us to quadruple the numbers of participants we served and multiply our partnerships one hundred fold.
Starting with one employee and $450 in the bank, INPEACE has grown statewide, serving more than 2,000 annually with seven programs, while maintaining 155 employees and an annual budget of over $4 million. Over the last seventeen years, we have employed more than 400 individuals, the majority of which have been Native Hawaiians from the community they serve.