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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 4, 2005

School burglars steal charity cash from kids

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Students at Hokulani Elementary School in Manoa returned from their holiday break yesterday to find that burglars had trashed two classrooms. But they didn't let that dampen their determination to help others.

Among the items taken were two large, nearly filled jars of money collected by sixth-graders for Aloha United Way.

"We're going to start another one," said sixth-grader Mandy Soken, 11. She said her class is planning a bake sale and coin drive to meet its goal of an end-of-the-month donation to AUW: "You just have to look on the positive side."

The targeted classrooms, D7 and D8, are in the less visible of a pair of two-story buildings on campus. The school on Kamakini Street, in back of Kanewai Park near the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, also has a single-story building. Hokulani principal Donna Lum said vandalism has not been a problem.

A screwdriver, which was probably used to open the doors, was found in one of the classrooms, said Lum.

Lum praised the students for continuing the project.

"The kids here are wonderful," Lum said. "This was a reality check for them and ... (their decision) is going to help them develop that extra step to go beyond."

The burglars also stole instructional equipment, such as computer keyboards, binoculars and microscopes. It is estimated that the break-in happened on Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning.

Susan Soken, Mandy's mother, learned of the break-in yesterday afternoon from her daughter. "I feel bad for the kids and teachers, who do so much," Susan Soken said. "Public schools are struggling and it's hard enough without this happening."

Said Mandy, "Some people gave up their allowances. I'm kind of disappointed that all the hard work is gone.

"And I'm also kind of mad that there are people in Hawai'i who would do this, especially to a school. Nobody deserves to have stuff taken away."

Mandy said that at first glance the classroom looked normal when she returned because it had been cleaned up. The accounting on what was stolen was continuing. "As the day went on, she (the teacher) discovered more and more things missing," Mandy said.

Some members of the school's parent-teacher group are discussing a benefit fun run to raise money for security alarms for classrooms, said Susan Soken.

Reach Rod Ohira at 535-8181 or rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.