Kea’au High School

Kea’au High School

  • Partner School: Kea'au High School
  • Hometown: Kea'au, Hawai'i
  • Trip Dates: June 2022
  • Destination: Iceland


What does it mean to have a legacy? 

FLYTE was founded nearly 7 years ago by Nomadic Matt and a community of travelers with the goal of empowering young people through travel. We wanted to build a legacy that creates more equity in access to study abroad opportunities. 

Over the years, we’ve worked with over 100 students in 7 schools, who have traveled nearly 400,000 miles. Throughout this time, our team realized that another powerful element of these programs is that they give young people opportunities not just to travel, but to create their own legacy within their communities. 

This concept of legacy is really embodied in our 2022 partner school. We’ve been working behind the scenes for the past 6 months to create an impactful experience for another group of incredibly resilient and inspiring students. 

Meet Kea’au High School from Hawai’i! 

Kea’au High School is located south of Hilo in the Puna District on the Island of Hawai’i. Once a bustling plantation mill community, Kea’au is now a rural community outside of Hilo, serving a majority of Native Hawaiian and Filipino students. 

Throughout the application process, what became most apparent to us was how the teachers, students, and administrators from this school all embody what it means to overcome adversity, live in community, and create a legacy. Soon they will be traveling halfway around the world to Iceland to explore a volcanic island similar to their own home, but different in a multitude of ways. 

Jo’el, one of the teachers leading this trip weaves the theme of environmental science through their journey abroad, 

Iceland and Hawai’i are both volcanic islands formed from hot spots on Earth’s crust yet located in very different parts of the world. Learning and comparing the geographical history of the two and the marine features and cultural dependencies would be mind-blowing for my students. They can understand more by being there and can then lobby their legislators for change.

These are the next generation of leaders and this opportunity will give them hands-on knowledge that can guide how they shape the future. We also love how this group of students going on the trip was chosen very intentionally. 

Damien, another teacher leading them through Iceland, told us, This diverse group of students represent different cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds, and educational experiences. Some of these students come from alternative learning settings where they were placed due to behavioral and/or emotional disorders that prevented them from learning in a traditional classroom setting. 

These students have faced severe forms of trauma and still find a way to show up every day in hopes of creating a better future. They have demonstrated a sense of resilience and have taken responsibility for their behaviors which is why they were selected for this opportunity.

The enthusiasm and respect shared among everyone in this school community are apparent, and we’re excited for these students to have been chosen for this trip. We know that their time in Iceland is one small piece of education that will inform their larger legacy. 

In some ways, it’s already happening. Damien is Jo’el’s former student, and as a testament to her mentorship and that of his mother, another educator in the community, all of these passionate teachers continue to inspire and empower their students, the next generation of changemakers. 

The students have already accomplished so much. When we asked them about some of their proudest achievements, we were really left in awe. Lakeisha shared how she was able to learn how to speak English on my own even though my parents are not fluent speakers. Dalilah told us that she won the Big Island championship for Hawai’i high school paddling, and Riley made it to States for high school wrestling and judo. This is just the beginning of the huge legacy that all of these students will create. 

They also expressed their pride in their home community. Diego said that Hawai’i is special because people are all loving and welcoming. Malakai had a similar sentiment: Big Island is awesome because of my family and fishing. Skylar felt that People that live here know respect and appreciation for one another and their culture.

This latter point resonated with us when Jo’el told us how her students are Very aware of their footprint as a tourist. Being from Hawai’i, a place that is often exploited for its natural resources, they all understand the potentially detrimental effects of tourism. The group wants their time in Iceland to be meaningful to them and as respectful to the local community as possible.

When asked what made them most excited about the trip Caleb shared that I have never traveled off of Hawai’i Island, and never been on an airplane before. Jaeden is looking forward to it because I have never left the state and I want to see what the world looks like.  From one volcanic island to another, we can’t wait for them to experience Iceland from their unique perspectives. 

You, as a dear member of our FLYTE Community, have made this experience possible for them. 

Soon these students will get on a plane and experience the limitless possibilities the world has to offer. Thank you for being part of their journey. Now, we’re creating this legacy, together.