HYA participants in Paris, France
HYA participants in Paris, France

The Hawaiian Youths Abroad (HYA) program, under the direction of Hawaiʻinuiākea Faculty Specialist Nalani Balutski, has been reestablished after more than 130 years. A doctoral student in the College of Education (COE) Department of Educational Administration (EDEA), Balutski began researching an early Hawaiian travel and diplomacy program as part of her dissertation research before restarting HYA through the Native Hawaiian Student Services (NHSS) in 2018.

From 1880–1887, 18 Hawaiian students during King Kalākaua’s reign were funded through Hawaiian Kingdom legislative appropriations to participate in HYA, marking one of the earliest study abroad programs in the world. These young scholars traveled and studied through Italy, England, Scotland, China, Japan, and the United States where consulates and treaties already existed.

In summer 2018, 13 students from UH Mānoa traveled to Paris and London as part of a multi-course summer institute taught by Balutski, COE Associate Specialist Eōmailani Kukahiko, and NHSS Director Willy Kauai. The following year, 14 students traveled to London as well as to Turin and Naples, Italy through a faculty-sponsored study tour approved by the Study Abroad Office.

“With a similar intent to the original program, the NHSS Hawaiian Youths Abroad program provides similar and appropriate points of examination by exploring both the Hawaiian Kingdom educational and international diplomacy prowess in the 19th century while critically examining the illegal attempts that have attempted to exterminate such progress,” Balutski said.

In search of the many moʻolelo (history and stories) that the Hawaiian aliʻi (chiefs) and diplomats experienced while abroad, each student researched one of the original HYA students or a Hawaiian aliʻi or diplomat who visited these places.

“As we did last year, we diligently kept a travel blog to share with our lāhui (nation) our exploration in archives, libraries, museums, and other sites of historical significance as we recount Hawaiian-European encounters and experiences of the 19th century,” Balutski continued. “Just as those who came before us, we endeavored to bring back resources, moʻolelo, connections, and knowledge to continue to serve our lāhui.”

Kawaipuna Kalipi, an EDEA master’s student, chose James Kaneholo Booth as her research subject. Among her findings in Italy about this promising scholar, she discovered letters, ledgers, and medical records.

“Retracing, rediscovering and recovering the memory of James Kaneholo Booth through the cobble stoned roads of Turin and Naples has been overwhelming and emotional,” Kalipi writes in her travel blog.” To compare our experiences with that of the youths that were here in 19th century would be a stretch. The globalization of our world and advancement of technology has already made our trip abroad more accessible than they would have ever imagined possible.”

Posters of the HYA students’ work will be on display in the basement of ‘Iolani Palace throughout the month of October 2019. Visit the NHSS website for more information or to read HYA’s travel blogs. Donations to the program may be made through UH Foundation.

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