On October 25, while the rest of the high school was taking the PSATs, the class of 2023 went to the PaePae o He’eia Fishpond for a community service project, where they helped with a variety of restoration projects. 

The He’eia fish pond is an ancient Hawaiian fishpond located in Kaneohe and Paepae o He’eia is a non-profit established in 2001 “to build and maintain a thriving and abundant He’eia Fishpond for [the] community.” 

On their arrival at the fishpond, the students performed a ceremonial oli (a traditional Hawaiian chant) before beginning their work on the grounds. Leading the oli was senior Priscilla Parmatigan, who presented the staff with a traditional gift wrapped in ti leaf after the chant. The oli is part of the cultural practice of seeking permission to enter the grounds. Parmatigan, who is part-Hawaiian, explained, “Fish ponds were used by the Hawaiian people for food as well as trade. If someone were to steal from your fish pond, it would be somewhat like stolen money. In Hawaiian mythology, it was said that a stingray god would defend the fish pond and a lizard would defend the forest of Paepae o He’eia.”

After the oli, the seniors were separated into groups to go about a variety of restoration tasks on the property. One group went into the fishpond to collect upside-down jellyfish, an invasive species. With chest waders, rubber gloves and nets, the seniors filled up buckets with the jellyfish. Other groups helped with weed and invasive plant removal on land and in the pond. The seniors also heard from the Paepae o He’eia staff about things they could do to take care of Hawaii’s environment.

Senior Sam Cerda adds to a stack of plant debris, which are disposed by burning. Photograph courtesy of Craig Chang.
The seniors share a humorous moment during their work when someone’s Crocs is dislodged as a result of the muddy soil. Photograph courtesy of Craig Chang.