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Center on Disability Studies

2021 - 2022 Annual Report

Hawai‘i Positive Engagement Project (H-PEP)


The Center on Disability Studies (CDS) project Hawai‘i Positive Engagement Project (H-PEP): SPARK Aloha offered 5 retreats serving 211 Native Hawaiian students, parents, and educators and their needs. The project seeks to build literacy while addressing toxic stress resulting from the pandemic.

H-PEP’s top values are positive mindset, connection, responsibility, empowerment, and well-being. Based on these truths, we facilitate strengths-based, heart-centered reflection and learning to help you flourish so that you can be your best for others, especially your keiki. Positively engaged educators and parents change the world and we are passionate about supporting this uncovering and exchange of Light.

Project Objectives and Activities:

  1. Address the professional development (PD) needs of Native Hawaiian early educators (preschool teachers, aides, administrators) and those who work with Native Hawaiian students in Early Childhood Education;

  2. Build knowledge and increase early educators’ use of effective, research- based, culturally appropriate strategies that will strengthen early learning outcomes for at- risk Native Hawaiian preschool students;

  3. Build protective factors of Native Hawaiian families with young children by facilitating positive parent engagement and early literacy skills through the use of culturally appropriate research-based strategies; and 

  4. Create and disseminate an accessible repository of hard copy and online materials for continued use post-grant, to increase the sustained use of effective strategies.


Applications Due: 08/19/23

SPARK cohorts are designed for YOU, Hawaiʻi’s educators and parents. The purpose of this online 10-week well-being cohort is to address toxic stress resulting from the pandemic so that you are the most effective when working with students. Participants will engage in weekly research-based Positive Psychology activities designed to increase personal well-being and flourishing as well as decrease stress. This is the second of five planned cohorts over three years. SPARK cohorts are funded by the US DOE Native Hawaiian Education Program.

“I am humbled and honored that H-PEP has been funded because it means we can continue our important work in Native Hawaiian educator and parent well-being,” shared Rombaoa Tanaka. “Now more than ever, it is time to focus on highlighting strengths and building protective factors against toxic stress. Taking care of our own mental and emotional health is key to being at our best when serving our keiki.”
Naomi Rombaoa Tanaka
Naomi Rombaoa Tanaka, PhD
Director, Hawaiʻi Positive Engagement Project (H-PEP): Spark Aloha