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Honokaʻa Fire Captain Recognized as ‘Champion for Children’

March 17, 2021, 9:49 AM HST
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Christian Wong, a Honokaʻa fire captain and STEM education advocate, is among this year’s Champions for Children honorees.

This year, for its annual Champions for Children awards on April 7, Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network (HCAN) is recognizing community members who went above and beyond for keiki during the COVID-19 pandemic. They include educators, social service providers, health advocates, and other leaders from across the state.

HCAN is a nonprofit creating a unified voice for Hawaiʻi’s children. Its grassroots movement strives to ensure that all keiki are safe, healthy, and ready to learn.

Wong is one of 17 people being recognized. The fire captain, a longtime proponent of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, launched Hawaiʻi STEM Community Care, which has provided personal protective equipment, trained contact tracers, and empowered youth during the pandemic.

“It’s been a year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, and amid the unprecedented challenges we’ve faced, it’s inspiring to see how Champions for Children like Christian have made an impact,” said Deborah Zysman, Executive Director of HCAN. “All 17 honorees are representative of the extraordinary dedication to children and families across the state. We’re excited to share their stories in the coming days.”

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HCAN received nearly 90 public nominations, and a panel of community experts selected the honorees. For three awards—Innovator, Family-Friendly Employer, and Unsung Hero—the judges picked three finalists, and the winners will be revealed live during the ceremony.

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Lt. Governor Josh Green will deliver a keynote speech at the virtual Champions for Children event on April 7, which will take place from 6-7 p.m. Registration is free, with a $25 suggested donation. The public is invited to sign up at https://champions.hawaii-can.org.

See below for the full list of HCAN’s 2021 Champions for Children honorees.

• Innovator: Christian Wong, Hawaiʻi STEM Community Care; David Miyashiro, HawaiiKidsCAN; Punahele Provisions
• Family-Friendly Employer: ADM Architecture + Interiors; ʻIolani School; Wesley Children’s Programs
• Unsung Hero: Cristina and Devin Pagaduan, Pastele House Maui; Elisapeta Tu’upo-Alaimaleata, Le Fetuao Samoan Language School; Susan Rocco, Special Parent Information Network
• Health Worker/Advocate: Kalākaua Middle School Custodian Team
• Public Health: Kōkua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services
• Family Strengthening: YMCA of Honolulu
• Economic Security/Social Services: Carla Houser, RYSE
• Early Learning (Individual): Debbi Amaral, Maui Economic Opportunity Head Start
• Early Learning (Organization): Maui Family Support Services, Inc. Early Head Start
• K-12 Teacher: Karl Higa, Noelani Elementary School
• K-12 Administrator: Malaea Wetzel, Haleʻiwa Elementary School

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