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Kauaʻi CC Waiʻaleʻale Student Project helps Nawiliwili community

Volunteers reclaim Hule'ia River from invasive mangroves

Kauaʻi Community College
Camilla Matsumoto, (808) 245-8280
Comm Relations & Spec Projects, Chancellor's Office
Posted: Oct 30, 2013

The volunteers at the cleanup site.
The volunteers at the cleanup site.
Lisa Rapoza, Kaua'i CC student and Wai'ale'ale Project head student mentor.
Lisa Rapoza, Kaua'i CC student and Wai'ale'ale Project head student mentor.

(LIHUE, Hawaiʻi) More than 30 Kauaʻi Community College students and faculty joined forces with members of the Rotary Club of Kauaʻi and Malama Hule’ia to get down and dirty in the muddy headwaters of the Hule’ia River of Nawiliwili to eradicate the highly invasive red mangrove plant that has severely overtaken the banks of the river and areas of the Nawiliwili Bay watershed. Malama Hule’ia and the Kailoa Canoe Club received grant funding from NOAA and Hawaiʻi Community Foundation to support the elimination of the aggressive invasive plant. 

Bringing Kauaʻi CC to support this community effort was the brainchild of Lisa Rapozo, Wai’ale’ale Project’s head student mentor, Phi Theta Kappa honor student, and Kauaʻi CC Student Employee of the Year.  Over months, she collaborated with Kimo Perry, Waiʻaleʻale project coordinator and student support coordinator Bevin Parker-Evans, and Mason Chock of KupuʻAe and Malama Huleʻia. Joining the Waiʻaleʻale Project team were Kauaʻi CC’s Kipaipai First Year Experience coordinator Rebecca Yund, student activities and student government coordinator John Constantino, and math faculty member Ming "Coco" Chi.

Rapozo grew up in Niumalu and remembers when she and her cousins played in the river and watershed.  Over time, the red mangrove has dramatically taken over the area compromising the water quality and wildlife.  Today, waters by Niumalu Park are choked off.  The plant’s air roots collect sediment, which creates islands of dirt that fill and cover up the natural wetlands.

The two-day project resulted in a remarkable visible difference.  Chainsaws buzzed, mangrove trees felled by the water line, and volunteers dragged 10-25 feet tall tree branches out of wet estuary lands.

Rapozo said she was “rewarded with a feeling of accomplishment of service,” as she reflected on the project. Participants also felt a deep appreciation for the ‘aina of historic Niumalu.

Rapozo believes that students, who have been given opportunities to advance in college with help from scholarships, should be willing to give back to their community.  Kauaʻi CC encourages leadership development through mentorship, internship and service-learning civic engagement as part of the college learning experience.  Rapozo, one of the original students recruited four years ago to the Waiʻaleʻale Project scholarship program, has been able to continue working full time while raising her family and attending school.  She will graduate at the end of the fall semester in 2013 with an associate of arts degree in liberal arts and transfer next spring to University of Hawaiʻi West Oʻahu to earn a bachelor of arts degree in psychology via distance learning.

The Waiʻaleʻale Project provides academic support through tutoring, mentoring, summer college-readiness programs and on-going academic support to students who wouldn’t normally be able to attend college without community support.  Working with community organizations, the scholarship, founded by a single donor, has grown and expanded due to the generous contributions of organizations such as OHA, Kamehameha Schools and individuals.  Students are recruited by organizations within the community who are resource referral partners focused on student success.  For more information about Lisa Rapozo and the Kauaʻi CC Waiʻaleʻale Project, watch the 3-minute video produced by UH Foundation at the following link:

To find out more about the work at Malama Hule’ia or community groups who are looking for community service opportunities should contact Mason Chock at