JVEF partners improve keiki education

| September 7, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photo by
Vanessa Lynch
News Editor

Attendees at the ninth annual Joint Venture Education Forum, held at the Hawaii Okinawa Center, Aug. 26, recognized more than 140 Soldiers, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, Marines and Sailors, who were honored for their volunteer efforts at school partnerships statewide. WAIPAHU — Educators and distinguished volunteers gathered with high-ranking military personnel at the Hawaii Okinawa Center, here, Aug. 26, for the ninth annual Joint Venture Education Forum, or JVEF.

The JVEF is a celebration of the ongoing partnership between Hawaii’s military community, the state’s Department of Education, public schools, businesses and the state legislature, who all met with the goal of facilitating communication and improving results for schooling in Hawaii. 

“Hawaii-based forces have been a large contributor to the warfighting missions of the last decade … (and) absentee parents, often deployed in harm’s way create circumstances that affect the children they leave behind in a variety of ways,” said Col. Michael Davino, U.S. Pacific Command and JVEF executive co-chair. “Schools provide the anchor, the stable force, in these unsettling times when our families are experiencing deployment after deployment, and challenge after challenge.” 

This year’s theme was “Partnerships Committed to Excellence,” and the past 12 years have demonstrated that this cooperative venture has already had a positive impact on the Hawaii community at large.

“I funded this effort out of concern that our community was being divided – the military commands and military parents on one side, and state educators and policymakers on the other,” said Sen. Daniel Inouye, during his keynote speech. “Once divided, the healing would be long and difficult. JVEF’s goal is to focus on the commonality, which is the successful education of Hawaii’s children, whether military or civilian.” 

Event co-emcee, Chris Blanchard, chief of staff, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, said Hawaii’s public school system is the 11th largest school district in the nation with more than 177,000 students enrolled in grades K-12, at 258 public schools and 31 public charter schools. 

Since its inception in 1998, the goal of JVEF has been to assist military students and their families through outreach programs and partnerships in Hawaii. 

Today, the program continues to meet the needs and transition issues of approximately 15,000 military children, by funding school repair and maintenance projects, and providing textbooks and technology upgrades.

“Since 2000, through the generosity of Sen. Inouye, the JVEF has received an annual appropriation from the Department of Defense to support its initiatives,” said Fay Toyama, principal, Lehua Elementary School and event co-emcee. “Through these funds, totaling nearly $45 million, the JVEF has made a positive impact on schools and students. 

“The partnership has provided new playgrounds, textbooks and curricular supports in the areas of math, science, fine arts and robotics,” Toyama continued.

“These funds are but a small means to accomplish a much larger goal,” Inouye said. “There is a Hawaiian word called ‘laulima,’ which means ‘many hands working together.’ That is JVEF. That must be our collective mission.” 

During the forum, guests received updates on several initiatives, including transition, technology and a project update of a Tripler Army Medical Center program that receives funds to help special needs students enrolled in public schools: Special Needs Services and Information for Students and Teachers, or ASSIST.

Attendees also recognized more than 140 Soldiers, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, Marines and Sailors who were honored for their volunteer efforts at school partnerships statewide. 

Mokulele Elementary, Solomon Elementary and Wheeler Elementary School received the JVEF Norbert Commendation Award from State Sen. Norman Sakamoto; State Rep. Mark Takai; Rear Adm. Robin Watters, chief of staff, U.S. Pacific Command; Davino; and Kathryn Matayoshi, interim superintendent.

This year’s outstanding JVEF military contributor was Blanchard, and Curtis Chang, cochair of the textbook and technology strategy group, was awarded the JVEF civilian contributor award.

Matayoshi announced that Hawaii came in third place in the “Race to the Top,” a competitive federal education grant. Hawaii will receive $75 million in funding for education reforms. 

“Education is so very important for the future of our state,” said Matayoshi. “We are all in this canoe together. Even though the current may try and take us in a different direction, we must paddle together to get to the same destination — and that is to have all of our students graduate.”

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