The IKUNA Group

The IKUNA Group

IKUNA was formally organized in 2019. We created our non-profit organization with the intention of elevating Pacific Islander (PI) knowledge and culture amongst our younger generation. Being first generation pacific islanders in Oakland, we grew up with a deep connection to our ancestral roots and the sacrifices that were made

The IKUNA Group

IKUNA was formally organized in 2019. We created our non-profit organization with the intention of elevating Pacific Islander (PI) knowledge and culture amongst our younger generation. Being first generation pacific islanders in Oakland, we grew up with a deep connection to our ancestral roots and the sacrifices that were made to come to America. With this understanding it gave us purpose and identity growing up. Our mission is to elevate culture through education, mental health, and cultural awareness programming. To help young pacific islanders connect to identity, purpose, culture, and feel a sense of belonging wherever they may be. We engage our communities with important cultural values such as respect, kindness, loyalty, and humility. Practicing all of these values guided by love for our people of the islands.

About the Organization:

IKUNA was formally organized in 2019. We created our non-profit organization with the intention of elevating Pacific Islander (PI) knowledge and culture amongst our younger generation. Being first generation pacific islanders in Oakland, we grew up with a deep connection to our ancestral roots and the sacrifices that were made to come to America. With this understanding it gave us purpose and identity growing up. Our mission is to elevate culture through education, mental health, and cultural awareness programming. To help young pacific islanders connect to identity, purpose, culture, and feel a sense of belonging wherever they may be. We engage our communities with important cultural values such as respect, kindness, loyalty, and humility. Practicing all of these values guided by love for our people of the islands.

organizational budget

$100,000 - $500,000

existence for

0-5 Years

Organization benefits AAPIs residing in the following state(s):

Hawaii

organizational budget

$100,000 - $500,000

existence for

0-5 Years

Organization benefits AAPIs residing in the following state(s):

Hawaii

The Issue:

We wish to address the needs of Pacific Islander (PI) youth in the East Bay, specifically in the city of Oakland. In the Oakland Unified School District where most of our work is currently done, we found the following. Over 600 students identify as PI in the district. We estimate another 10%-15% who did not identify or are of mixed heritage. The district budget per student is roughly $16,109. 600 pacific islander students equates to just over $9 million yet out of that money, almost nothing is allocated specifically for programming to support our group. For years PI student data was lumped together with Asian and so absenteeism , suspension, literacy, college readiness , etc. were all favorable. Only recently has school districts begun to disaggregate the data between pacific islander and Asian. This is where we found out that pacific islander students were struggling in almost every category. Absenteeism (over 20% severe chronic absent), suspension (2x as high as district average), literacy (-48% at grade level), college readiness (60% were not A-G ready). The PI student population was not being served and supported sufficiently to overturn the negative trends. The other factor is not having enough presence on school sites where PI students attend. There are not enough people who look like us that can be with students regularly. Staff and admin sometimes have a difficult time understanding the challenges due to cultural norms and practices. There are so many layers of a PI student tied to culture. We know the demands most teachers have already is overwhelming and it's no surprise that many of our students just fall through the cracks.

The Solution:

Over the past 2 years we work 1 on 1 with K-5 elementary students doing literacy support. We coordinate times with teachers to meet with students to do activities that revolve around sight word review, comprehension, and reading fluency. We also read stories that reflect culturally relevant themes that students can relate to and can speak to it. We have also been working with 9-12 graders through our Wayfinder Program. We introduce them to concepts relating to: Identity, Purpose, Belonging, and Culture. Students are asked to complete several small projects as it relates to their families and ancestral origins. Students who are firmly rooted in their identity, understand who they are and become better prepared to find purpose. This is our 3rd year running Wayfinder and we can already see the positive impact it has on young Pacific Islander (PI) lives. When we launched Wayfinder program in 2021, we had 8 students. Out of that 8, 3 are currently enrolled in a four year university (UC Riverside, BYU Hawaii, St. Joseph). 3 are serving 24 month volunteer religious/humanitarian missions, and 2 will be a senior in high school this fall. Our group this year we have over 20 students. 4 were seniors, each one is set to attend a 4 year university. Two of them will attend Sacramento St, one will go to San Francisco St, and one to Cal Berkeley. The student going to Cal had the highest GPA (4.4) for a PI student in the Oakland Unified District this year. The literacy support and Wayfinder program help to boost student confidence and increases their ability to thrive in academic settings. Families have become more engaged when someone from their community is in the school working with their student. We can feel the momentum of our work propelling us forward and reversing the negative trends of the past. We are excited but at the same time weary that our work will not be able to continue due to the funding challenges. The needs of PI students/families have been neglected for far too long.

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