POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Apr 19, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 2:13 a.m. HST, Apr 19, 2011
The birth of Hiki No, the new statewide (and nation's only) student news network, was achievable because a few pioneering educators, equipped with little more than creativity and willpower, wanted their students to succeed.
When Leslie Wilcox, president and CEO of PBS, was in the early stages of developing the program, she surveyed a number of high schools that were producing first-rate videos and other digital content. Of all the schools, there was one with a track record that clearly stood out. She sought out the director of this program as an adviser to assist in developing a statewide model for Hiki No.
That meant leaving Honolulu and going directly to the Waianae Coast to see Candy Suiso, founder of SeaRider Productions. Since 1993, Suiso's students, who come from one of the most economically challenged areas in the state, have regularly churned out award-winning public service announcements, television commercials, student news and music videos.
Suiso's storybegan in 1973. After graduation, her wishes were clear — she wanted to leave Waianae.That she did. However, after college in Colorado and Iowa, she returned to Hawaii as a Spanish teacher, eventually getting a job back in Waianae High School.
In the early 1990s, she started using video technology in classes to teach Spanish. She observed that filming the students in Spanish-speaking skits made learning the language more compelling and fun. Students got involved in actual video production and became more engaged in school.
She realized that she had hit upon a powerful educational tool. In a year meant to be a sabbatical, she plunged into teaching herself everything she could learn about video production. She also understood that she had to find resources, mostly outside of the public school system. She became a one-person, grant-writing machine.
Her efforts were hugely successful. Local partners like The James & Abigail Family Foundation, the Queen Lili‘uokalani Children's Center and Ko Olina Charities stepped up to the plate, as did federal agencies and prestigious national organizations such as the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
As the program grew, so did the accolades. There were rave reviews and national awards such as a Robert F. Kennedy Foundation journalism honor and a national student Emmy award, one of the highest honors dished out to student media programs. Though the kudos were inspiring, Suiso believes it's more important students gain experience, acquire self esteem, and learn the importance of giving back to the community.
Suiso and Waianae High School exemplify what's best about Hiki No: A diversity of public and private school students from around the state that are able to participate fully, with an equal voice. That's something of which we can all be proud.
Cliff Miyake is vice president and general manager for tw telecom in Honolulu. He can be reached at Cliff.Miyake@twtelecom.com.