Waiahole Elementary School Principal Alexandra Obra feels strongly that her job extends beyond the borders of her campus.
The school has only 100 students from kindergarten through sixth grade. More than half are Native Hawaiians. “A lot of our kids come from homes that don’t have a lot of resources,” she said.
Alex takes advocacy to another level, testifying before the state Legislature, the Board of Education and wherever else she may see as a funding source for her school, her students and the tiny Waiahole community of which the school plays a vital role.
With the help of an HEA continuing education scholarship, Alex recently completed the second in a series of online Harvard University courses designed to help educators hone their leadership skills.
She used her own money to pay for the first class because she was reluctant to tap school funds to pay for her personal education.
“The class was very important because I want to be the best school leader that I can. I’m servicing not just the students but our teachers, staff and our family members,” she said.
Alex credits Professor Noreen Mokuau, dean of the University of Hawaii Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work, for inspiring her to champion underdog causes.
“Dr. Mokuau’s work advocating for Native Hawaiians motivates me to be an advocate as well.”
Waiahole Elementary was established during King Kalakaua’s reign. Waiahole Valley itself is steeped in Hawaiian culture and played a vital role in Hawaii’s history.
“I try to incorporate the culture into the things we do here.”
Six years after becoming the school’s principal, Alex shows no signs that she’s leaving anytime soon. “I have a long commute every day, but there’s nothing like driving up the valley road, seeing the mountains and then getting to see the kids.”