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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 24, 2006

Students lend helping hand

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

Among tasks Chaminade students and staff have volunteered for is swabbing the decks of the USS Missouri. Other service includes tutoring children in Palolo, cleaning parks and restoring fishponds.

Chaminade University

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A group of about 520 Chaminade students, faculty and staff has put in 70,000 volunteer hours in this community and others this year as part of an effort to give something back in commemoration of the school's 50th anniversary.

Students who are part of Chaminade's service effort volunteer throughout the year, putting in 10 or more hours every semester as part of their course curriculum, said Brother Tom Spring.

Spring has coordinated a 20-month effort at the campus designed to accumulate at least 50,000 hours of service from students and staff.

Those hours come after school or on weekends, or in every other spare moment students can find. The volunteer hours were logged from January 2005 to September 2006. The school's anniversary year is 2005-06.

Student Dan Mannell tucks in a meeting or a few hours of planning whenever he can as co-chairman of this year's Christmas on Campus program, through which Chaminade provides a holiday meal and a $100 gift card to 12 needy Palolo families.

"I just like to give back to the community," said Mannell, a 21-year-old junior who has refocused his future plans to school counseling from criminal justice because of the experience.

"It gives me a better feeling about myself ... I feel fortunate for the things I have, like the opportunity to go to college, and I want to share my talents."

Other students, like Maria Noeth, have gone as far as India to volunteer. For Noeth, serving others means obtaining a medical degree and then joining the Doctors Without Borders organization and returning to India.

"We were in the slums mostly," said Noeth, "Going there made me realize this is what I absolutely want to do."

Almost two dozen students and staff joined relief workers in New Orleans after Katrina's destruction and spent a week there helping Catholic charities.

Others have helped homeless people with taxes to make sure they get the returns they deserve, tutored children in the Palolo Pipeline project, or spent hours cleaning beaches or parks or restoring fishponds.

Not long ago, students and teachers assembled on the USS Missouri to swab and sweep decks, and generally say "aye aye" in handling other menial but necessary tasks.

One highly successful pilot project launched this year was the financial aid workshops offered to families of Kaimuki High School students to help fill out the lengthy and complex forms required to apply for college help.

It worked so well, said Candice Sakuda, director of service learning in the curriculum, that the project expects to expand next year.

Spring said the service projects have probably touched more than 650 individuals throughout the community. But often a large part of the impact is felt by the students themselves.

"My students who have done tutoring at Palolo have made career decisions either to become teachers or they knew they never wanted to be teachers after being around the kids," said Spring.

"Some effects have been pretty radical. For one student from Tinian a few years ago, his family had him all set up to come here and get a college education and go back and become a politician.

"But he went to help tutor a few times and decided he wasn't going to go into politics but into education, and he became a schoolteacher instead and went back to help."

The number of hours has also far exceeded the goal rising to more than 70,000 hours contributed by folks at Chaminade, plus 20,000 more served by students and faculty at St. Mary University in San Antonio, Texas, another Marianist college that joined the effort.

Kapualani Mashima's contribution was mentoring a group of students. She kept in touch with the youngsters even after the semester ended. They still call her for advice and the 37-year-old mother of four is always available to help.

"Mainly this has reminded me of the difference you can make," said Mashima, who never pursued her own college career until after she was married and had children.

In high school, a counselor discouraged her from trying out for a scholarship to make college possible, so she gave up on college and married young. Only in her 30s has she gone back to school for a master's degree in counseling so she can make sure other students don't have the bad experience she had.

"They say that everything bad you experience you'll find out why someday," said Mashima. "Well, I can relate and I can understand. That's why I tell kids, 'Don't let anyone discourage you.'

"You want to do it the right way. I wish I had. So find one adult that will support you and I want to be that for some people. It's such a value to see someone do it."

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com.