Updated: December 8, 2023
In response to a concerning rise in school violence and bullying, a local nonprofit organization has stepped up to provide education and solutions for schools in Hawaiʻi.
The Choose Aloha program, aimed at keiki, focuses on promoting love over hate, combating bullying, preventing self-harm, and addressing suicidal ideation.
Notably, this curriculum comes at no cost to schools or students.
In addition to the Social Emotional Learning curriculum and engaging school rallies, the program has introduced a series of locally produced children’s books that serve as a tool in reinforcing the program’s core message.
Organization leaders say the Choose Aloha initiative offers a comprehensive approach to combatting school violence and fostering a positive and supportive environment for students.
“Prevention is one of the most effective and preferred solutions for bullying,” said Aloha Ambassador Dawn O’Brien, who spearheads Choose Aloha. “If we can ‘vaccinate’ our keiki against bullying before it happens, we’re more likely to stop it. Our local children’s books also give educators, parents and community members a safe space to start the conversation in a non-threatening, comfortable way.”
More than 300 schools in Hawaiʻi have the “Choose Love” curriculum which was created by a mother who lost her son in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. It has spread to all 50 states in America and more than 120 countries.
Hawaiʻi has the highest adoption rate of the program among all states, with a wide implementation across numerous schools.
“But of course, we’re the Aloha State! Love is our first name and our identity,” said O’Brien, also known as “Aunty Dawn” in many elementary schools where Choose Aloha videos are used in classrooms.
There are two children’s books in the Aloha series. “Aloha Allova: A Sacred Secret to Save the Day,” was released August 2022. The newest release, “Aloha Always Wins!”, focuses on bullying.
Books are sold on amazon.com and in local bookstores, including: Logos at Ward Centre and Life Resources on Sand Island.