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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Census VIPs urge kids to make it count in Kalihi

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

A-Plus program students at Linapuni Elementary School were encouraged to get their parents to complete and return the census form, which helps determine funding for school programs.

DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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In the quest to gain a full accounting of Hawai'i's population, Census 2010 officials visited Linapuni Elementary School yesterday to enlist the help of a most persuasive group of young lobbyists.

U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Rebecca Blank joined Hawai'i officials in telling students at the Kalihi school about the importance of the census and urging them to make sure their parents or guardians fill out and return census forms.

"This is one of the things the census is doing to get the word out, partly because kids are often undercounted and partly because this is one way to get the message to the parents," Blank said. "They're going to be adults in another 10 or 15 years and we want them to be counted then, too."

Blank said the effort is meant to complement ongoing media ads in various languages, partnerships with local community groups and other initiatives aimed at improving Hawai'i's traditionally low response rate.

In 2000, 60 percent of Hawai'i households mailed back completed census forms, the third-worst rate of return in the country.

James Christy, director of the U.S. Census Bureau's Los Angeles regional office, which oversees Hawai'i census operations, also attended yesterday's rally. He said children were the most undercount ed group in the 2000 census, a situation census officials are eager to correct this time around.

"They don't fill out their own census questionnaire s," Christy said. "Other people do it for them, yet they are the ones most affected by the programs that are in place."

Christy said that census education is easily integrated with core subjects like math, geography and civics.

"It's a great way to educate kids about things that are part of their core curriculum in a way that's useful and facilitative for the census."

Speakers kept the message simple that answering 10 questions takes just 10 minutes and ensures that everyone is counted and they encouraged students to keep an eye on their mailbox and make sure their parents get their census forms.

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona recalled what it felt like to be left out of pickup basketball games when he was a child and likened the experience of being "ignored" to losing out on federal funds due to undercounting in the census.

"If you're not counted, it's like being ignored," Aiona told the students. "You don't get a chance to play."

Though Aiona and other officials didn't get quite as enthusiastic a response as Clifford the Big Red Dog (who accompanied singer Junior Kekuewa Jr. with an impromptu hula), the message seemed to take as the students correctly answered a series of census-related questions posed by DJ Kutmaster Spaz.

This year, kids, parents and anyone else will be able to track the progress of their community's census efforts online. Starting March 22, the U.S. Census Bureau will post daily updates on response rates in each census track.

Others at yesterday's event were Kathryn Matayoshi, interim Hawai'i schools superintendent; Pearl Imada Iboshi, the governor's liaison to the census and chairwoman of the 2010 Census Hawaii Government Complete Count Committee; and Momi Fernandez, director of the Census Information Center at Papa Ola Lokahi.