Connecting to the White House and Kekaha, Kaua‘i

Posted on Mar 1, 2021 in Capitol Connection, Featured

Mrs. Ige talks with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and other First Spouses.

Mrs. Ige talks with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and other First Spouses.

Down-to-earth . . . a good listener . . . inspiring. Those are some of the impressions Hawai‘i’s First Lady, Dawn Amano-Ige, has of Dr. Jill Biden, wife of U.S. President Joe Biden. Following a request from the White House, Mrs. Ige facilitated a virtual get-acquainted session with the First Spouses from the 50 states last month, where they talked about some of their initiatives and the challenges of their position. Mrs. Ige is serving as chair of the Spouses’ Leadership Committee for the National Governors Association.

“What was impressive to me is that she took the time to meet with our group so soon after the inauguration,” Mrs. Ige said. “She’s very committed to her work as First Lady. For Hawai‘i, I talked about the DOE’s Grab and Go school meals and ‘Ohana Readers.” Mrs. Ige continued, “As First Spouses, we’re not in the middle of politics so we can focus on bipartisan issues such as food insecurity, education and other family issues. We bring in experts to learn how we can move initiatives forward in our states.”

‘Ohana Readers advocates in Kekaha: Waimea Public Library branch manager Michelle Young (left) and preschool teacher Penny Beisch.

‘Ohana Readers advocates in Kekaha: Waimea Public Library branch manager Michelle Young (left) and preschool teacher Penny Beisch.

In February, Mrs. Ige’s ‘Ohana Readers project took another step forward on Kaua‘i to help keiki develop a love of reading. Thanks to a $2,000 grant from the KIUC Charitable Foundation, children 4 ½ years and younger living in Kekaha with a 96752 zip code can receive a free, age appropriate book each month in the mail through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Families can contact the Waimea Public Library at (808) 338-6848 for more details. The project’s local partners include the Hawai‘i Library System, the Friends of the Library and Learning to Grow. Today over 1.5 million children across the world have registered to participate.‘Ohana Readers also has launched projects on Moloka‘i and Lānaʻi.

Kekaha Elementary School principal Marilyn Asahi said programs like ‘Ohana Readers are vital to laying the foundation for success in school and in life because of the skills they build. “Our community is still struggling after the closing of the sugar mill and sometimes can feel forgotten,” she explained. “We want to perpetuate a love of reading and to have the students be proud of who they are. Having a project with the First Lady makes the students feel proud.” As an educator herself, Mrs. Ige has focused on programs that develop students’ self-esteem and values such as kindness and empathy. “I like the idea of self-empowerment, especially since students have had to adjust to life during the pandemic. That includes their socio-emotional growth as well as academic achievement,” she added.

Read more in the March Capitol Connection newsletter.

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