Brigitte Ululani Russo, who is earning her PhD in the UH Mānoa College of Education Department of Curriculum Studies (EDCS), is one of six esteemed scholars who were selected to participate in the first cohort of We The Peoples Before Education Fellows.
A program within the First Peoples Fund, We The Peoples Before is a four-day event held at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, featuring immersive performances, workshops, film screenings, cooking demonstrations, in-depth discussions, and more.
“This fellowship gives me the opportunity to build my skillset on lesson planning and network with other Indigenous educators across Turtle Island,” said Russo who is an eighth grade science teacher at Wai‘anae Intermediate School.
Founded in 1995, First Peoples Fund honors and supports native artists, culture bearers, and educators through the We The Peoples Before festival as well as other financial, mentoring, and networking resources. As part of their responsibilities, the fellows will develop curricula for the 25th Anniversary Celebration of Native Cultural Expression and Sovereignty that will take place on February 3–6, 2022.
“Kumu Ululani is a passionate and committed kumu who works in the Waiʻanae community to empower students through Aloha ʻĀina [love of the land],” said EDCS Specialist Eōmailani Kukahiko. “I nominated Ululani for this award because of the way she is able to intersect science curriculum with ʻike kupuna [ancestral knowledge]. Additionally, her work with 808 Urban creates opportunities for youth to tell their moʻolelo [story] of place through a lens of modernity.
As part of the selection criteria, We The Peoples Before Education Fellows are required to have been a secondary education classroom teacher within last three years and/or to be currently in an out-of-school creative high school youth development program. In addition to developing a series of lesson plans and serving as key advisors for the project, the fellows will lead workshops for local educators and students. Each fellow will receive $10,000 during the 10-month fellowship.
In 2018, Russo was awarded the “Outstanding Graduate Student Poster Presentation” by the Hawaiʻi Conservation Alliance at their annual conference for her paper on Wai‘anae Intermediate School’s place-based, culturally responsive STEM learning activities. The same year, she was also selected to attend the National Geographic National Summer Institute Teton Science Schools in Jackson Wyoming.