Uhmc is often an initial yet integral part of the lives and success of its Maui haumāna (students). Haumāna are the future, for it is truly in their hands. This article highlights Kanaka Haumana Lexi Kameko Figueroa who is earning a double B.A. in ʻIke and ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian Studies and Hawaiian Language). Lexi shares her story about what sparked her interest in Hawaiian studies and why she decided to fully invest in culture.
Lexi says she became inspired about culture during high school. While on a trip to Aotearoa, New Zealand, she made deep realizations about cultural duty and her own personal kuleana.
“It was there that I realized my kuleana and responsibility to my people when I saw how the Māori people were so invested in their culture. So I wanted to learn more about mine when I came back home because- I am Hawaiian.”-Lexi Kameko Figueroa
Lexi’s parents had hopes of her attending college, so Lexi thought it best that she study what now interests her most- Hawaiian Studies and Hawaiian language. She began her journey at UHMC, then transferred to UH Mānoa to continue her degree. Lexi is now exploring ways to move forward. It is important to her that she gives back to her lāhui along the way. The road to Hawaiian has intersected with other interests and even led to new pathways for her. She is an artist and incorporates Hawaiian culture in her artwork.
Lexi recalls so many memorable strong points along her path. She credits the Hawaiian summer program led by Kumu’s Kaleikoa and Kahele for first helping her adjust and establish herself. She says, in those spaces, where ʻIke and ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi was present, she felt plugged in and was able to connect with her kanaka classmates and instructors in a profound way. The knowledge and openness of her kumus, and witnessing others eager to learn more of the Hawaiian culture was most encouraging for her.
UHMC has helped Lexi to become truly rooted in her identity. Her time spent here, along with the individuals she encountered have embedded in her, a deep sense of pride for being kanaka ʻōiwi. At times during high school, she recalls being discouraged to take Hawaiian studies because others warned that those credits would be in vain, that she might not get very far in ‘the world’ this way. She shared one last piece of advice for other kanaka ‘ōiwi haumāna who might be pondering what course of action to take.
“Before you listen to these people, telling you not to be proud of yourself, or before you decide to go to college somewhere else, or get away and try to distance yourself from your culture- just think about that fact that YOU are a HAWAIIAN living in your land base and how important that is! How your entire life was shaped by the ʻāina and community.”-Lexi Kameko Figueroa
Lexi has chosen the course of her culture, her people, her ʻāina. She is grounded in her foundation of ʻIke and ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, and she sees it as a great tool to have. She no longer doubts who she is and believes that this route will make her people, her kūpuna and most importantly herself and future generations proud. She is strengthened and fueled by her heritage, and her time at UHMC was the initial starting point in what is going to be an amazing and gratifying journey for Lexi.