HILO, HAWAII — A 6-year-old boy stands between his classmates in line to gear up for the daily after-school assembly. His brown bangs are crooked and freckles dot his nose and cheeks, which are marked with traces of his last meal. If his blue T-shirt of Batman, the resilient “Caped Crusader,” is any indication, he may want to be a superhero.

And who could blame him. His arms and legs are raw with bug bites, some scabbing so badly they could leave scars. When he leaves school at the end of the day, Principal Daniel Caluya later told us, he doesn’t go home because he doesn’t really have one. As is the case for about 100 of the 130 kids at Na Wai Ola Public Charter School, the boy is homeless, according to Caluya, who cites data the school tracks as part of the federal MicKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. (The law defines homeless children as those who “lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.”)

Na Wai Ola, an elementary school in the Big Island’s impoverished Puna district, was the first charter school Civil Beat visited for its Learning Hilo series, a collection of profiles on four of the nine charter schools in the roughly 50-mile expanse that runs from Hamakua to Volcano.





Photo Credit: PF Bentley of Civil Beat