Maui News

UH Awarded $2.85 Million Grant to Improve Health of Native Hawaiian Youth

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$2.85M grant to improve health and well-being of Native Hawaiian youth awarded to UH. PC: University of Hawaiʻi.

A $2.85 million US Department of Education Native Hawaiian education grant will support a program aimed at increasing the overall physical, mental and emotional health and well-being of Native Hawaiian youth.

I Paʻa Ka Huewai Pawehe, which translates to “so that our prized water gourds are made firm,” is a three-year University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Education program that will initiate, expand and improve the instruction and implementation of health education, physical education and physical activity through culturally relevant and trauma-informed teaching practices.

Erin E. Centeio. PC: University of Hawaiʻi.

Associate Professor Erin E. Centeio of the Department of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Science is the recipient of the grant.


“This is an amazing opportunity to design and implement culturally relevant health and wellness programming that will bring important resources to our schools and the keiki that they serve,” Centeio said. “Especially given the last year and a half with COVID-19, we know that our youth need the support and knowledge to improve their social, emotional and physical well-being, and we can’t wait to get started.” 

A collaborative effort

Under the direction of Centeio and College of Education Institute for Teacher Education Elementary Director Kuʻulei Serna, I Paʻa Ka Huewai Pawehe is a partnership between UH Mānoa, the Hawaiʻi Department of Education, the Hawaiʻi Department of Health and Hip Hop Public Health. 


The program will strategically partner with 20 schools, spanning four complex areas, all with high populations of Native Hawaiian students.

Kuʻulei Serna. PC: University of Hawaiʻi.

Serna, who serves as the health and trauma content expert, said “I am so excited to work with our partners and schools to provide intentional programming to support the health and well-being of some of our most vulnerable populations in Hawaiʻi, more specifically school-aged youth and Native Hawaiians.” 

There are four components of I Paʻa Ka Huewai Pawehe: 

  • Professional development and implementation of culturally relevant and trauma-informed teaching strategies
  • Professional development and implementation of quality health education and physical education 
  • Integration of physical activity throughout the school day that incorporates social-emotional learning, science and math, as well as Native Hawaiian history and culture
  • Integration of dual credit courses to help recruit Native Hawaiian youth into health professions and instill the importance of overall health in life. 

“This grant will allow us to execute what we fundamentally believe is true about educating the ‘whole child.’ The promotion of healthy social, mental, emotional and physical behaviors positively impacts academic achievement,” Serna said.


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