By Grace Sakurada & Jaimelynne Cruz
One of my most vivid memories from elementary school is the week we were given boxes of POG – passion orange guava juice – instead of the typical milk carton during lunchtime. It was April 2001, a week after the 20-day Hawaiʻi teacher’s strike had finally come to a close, and I was a third grader at Pearl Ridge Elementary School. As a child, I didn’t fully comprehend the extent of what had happened and what it meant for our local educators. However, I distinctly remember the energy I felt when my mom drove us past the school during the peak of the strike. I watched teachers wave and carry picket signs reading “mahalo” as people leaned out of passenger windows to honk and shaka, showing solidarity for the individuals who had worked tirelessly to educate our children.
Growing up in Hawaiʻi, I was humbled by how hard our teachers worked to serve our community. I am grateful and forever indebted to the many teachers who shaped my growth and provided guidance over the years. Unfortunately, the state has continued to struggle with rising housing costs on top of chronic teacher shortages. At the beginning of last school year, Hawaiʻi had 1,200 teacher vacancies to fill (up 200 from the previous year). The hard truth is that our educators are not able to afford living here and are being priced out. I believe there is more we can and must do to support our educators and keep them in the community.
Landed launched in Hawaiʻi this year. Through our down payment program, we are able to offer all public school and Kamehameha Schools employees in the state access to up to $120,000 in matching down payment support to help buy a home. I’m excited by the opportunity to support our educators and school employees, but I recognize it’s only one small step forward in the right direction. Although Landed’s program is not an end-all solution to the teacher shortage or housing crisis, I hope that it will offer local educators a path to build financial security and continue to call Hawaiʻi home.
Ultimately, I believe that only by listening, learning from, and supporting the unique needs of locals can we hope to better serve our community.
–Grace Sakurada, Business Operations
I love living in Hawaiʻi. The sense of aloha and the culture of Hawaiʻi is unlike anything I’ve experienced. Aloha is usually understood as a greeting: hello or goodbye. Aloha can mean different things in different contexts. Aloha can also be understood as a culture – an undercurrent of compassion, love, and respect.
My first real act of aloha happened when I was new to Hawaiʻi. I was on my way to visit my brother-in-law, and a man sat next to me at the bus stop. He immediately knew I wasn’t from here, and he asked where I was from. He only had to go to the bank down the street, but he decided to take the hour-long bus ride to town with me because he didn’t want me to get lost.
He pointed to different sights and gave me a bus tour of the island. When I arrived at my stop, I said thank you and asked why he would go out of his way. He said he believes in aloha and that if his daughter moves to the mainland, he hopes someone shows her the same aloha too.
I loved teaching in Waianae. The community where I worked had a small-town feel, and everyone knew everyone. My friends became my hanai (adopted) family. However, over the years, I noticed our teachers moving off the island. My friends who moved to Hawaiʻi usually left after a couple of years because it was too expensive. Those who did buy homes typically had special circumstances – situations like living with a relative for a deep discount to save, or having parents who loaned them the down payment for their home. Most of my teacher friends couldn’t afford to live on their own. We all had roommates and side jobs to help offset the cost to live in paradise. However, as you get older, living with roommates is not ideal; I understood why people choose to move to other places.
As a new employee, I’m excited about the sense of aloha I feel at Landed. I feel a sense of community and likemindedness within the team. We know our society is not doing enough to support our teachers, and we’re putting aloha into practice by providing educators and school employees with another way to stay in Hawaiʻi. I believe in our mission and in my teammates, and I know we are doing everything we can to help our teachers put down roots.
When we give our educators the option to live in our community, we help to establish a strong foundation for our schools. By continuing to invest in our schools and the people who run them, we set our students and our families up for success.
–Jaimelynne Cruz, Property Operations