Kaʻu High School wins $5,000 award for beautification efforts

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Mural at Ka‘ū High School. Photo Courtesy: Hawai‘i Community Foundation

Ka‘ū High School on the Big Island is one of three schools across the state chosen to receive a 2023 Cooke Beautification Award for Public Schools.

Founded in 1920, the Cooke Foundation supports community endeavors that make a difference in the betterment and welfare of the people of Hawai‘i.

The $5,000 Cooke Beautification Awards are typically presented every two years to recognize local public and charter schools for completed beautification projects that better their school environment and significantly enhance the school’s overall appearance and ambiance.


The awards represent the work of the entire community, as the planning and execution of the project must engage students in a meaningful way, and parents, faculty, staff and community members should be involved. The award monies may be used in any way the schools choose.

Kaʻu High School was honored for a new mural, “Kaʻū Kū Mākaha (Kaʻu Stands Fierce),” created collaboratively by students, professional artists, cultural practitioners, kūpuna and teachers.

The project’s original goal was to create a meaningful art opportunity for students as they transitioned back to in-person learning after virtual classes during the pandemic. It became so much more, as students engaged with community leaders and professional artists to learn the mele and moʻolelo ʻāina of Kaʻu, then turned these into the dynamic mural that now welcomes students and community members.


The students also participated in the blessing of the mural, including offering an oli they had learned during the cultural workshops while wearing kīhei they made.

“Having this beautiful mural created by our students will be a lasting reminder of the special place that we call home,” said Aina Akamu, program director of Kaʻu High School. “As we celebrate 142 years as a school, our mural honors the generations of people who came before and will inspire many future generations of Kaʻū.”

The two other beautification award recipients included Lihikai Elementary School on Maui and President Abraham Lincoln Elementary School on O‘ahu.

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