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Column: Atoll appears on school cafeteria wall

Originally published in The Garden Island

By Dennis Fujimoto

Mural aims to educate youth about importance of the oceans.

Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School Afterschool program students Evan Burgess, left, and Pohai Kaupu-Brown work on their section of marine environment on a mural developing on a portion of the school’s cafeteria in Puhi on Friday.

PUHI—The Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School student wanted to know—are the teeth on the eel small and sharp?

“Some of these students are very detail-oriented,” said Bronwyn Kay, the director of a mural developing on a portion of the school cafeteria. “They get down to where a student worked over two other students to apply the spots to the turtle. They work hard, and not just for a short while.”

Working for more than a week, Kay, a CKMS alumnus and an EarthEcho fellow, said the mural involves an atoll rising from the marine environment, each segment containing lifestyles of that particular environment.

“Creating a healthy future for our communities and families depends on the health of our ocean,” said an EarthEcho press release.

“EarthEcho International, a nonprofit dedicated to building a global youth movement to protect and restore our ocean planet, announced the 2022 OceanEcho 30×30 Fellowship class. Bronwyn Kay joins five other youth leaders 1823 years old who will receive funds and training to design and execute campaigns supporting locally driven ocean protection efforts in five key regions as well as the goal of protecting 30 percent of America’s waters by 2030.”

Partnering with EarthEco and the Pacific Remote Islands Coalition, Kay worked with and developed support with Kaua‘i artists like Seth Womble—“he donated some of the paints we’re using,” Kay said, in developing awareness among the younger generation that will be more directly involved with the impacts of non-protection.

“I am currently campaigning for the expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument through this fellowship,” said Kay, who recently earned her environmental sciences degree from the University of Hawai‘i Hilo, and is a recent addition to the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife through the Kupu program.

“The expansion of this monument would protect important habitat surrounding Howland Baker Islands, Kingman Reef, and Palmyra Atoll that are at threat from deep sea mining, and provide habitat to pelagic creatures and unique biological habitats on more than 98 seamounts,” she said.

With the fellowship, Kay joins five other fellows—Claudia Munoz Colon of Puerto Rico, Hacie San Jose of Guam, Destiny Bristol Kushin of Alaska, Jude Litulumar of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Kai Tran of California in projects and campaigns in their respective areas. “It is essential that we create and foster youth interest in ocean conservation if we hope to establish the sustained momentum needed to address and correct the growing climate challenges impacting people and critical ecosystems globally,” said Philippe Cousteau Jr., the international founder of EarthEcho International.

“I am certain the vision, actions and unwavering commitment of our 2022 OceanEcho 30×30 Fellows will provide inspiration and hope to emerging youth leaders worldwide.”

Kay said Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is an effective marine-protected area, and is more easily supported by the local communities because of their knowledge of it and its close proximity to the major Hawaiian Islands.

“My goal is to increase the community knowledge of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument by getting the young audience involved,” she said.

“Once the mural is completed, I’ll come back and visit with the students to talk more about the mural and its elements.”

Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School Afterschool program student Pohai Kaupu-Brown details a trumpetfish on the developing mural on Friday at the Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School cafeteria in Puhi.


Bronwyn Kay wipes down the chalk guides from the mural depicting an atoll rising from the marine environment at a portion of the Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School cafeteria in Puhi.
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