ʻEkekela Aiona has been a part of the ʻAha Pūnana Leo administration since 1990 when she began as the statewide Family Program Coordinator. Under her leadership, the Papa Makua, Hālāwai Makua, and Hana Makua, (family participation and engagement program elements) were implemented. She also played an essential role in bringing families together to change legislation, allowing for public education to support the Hawaiian language revitalization movement.
ʻEkekela began her journey in Hawaiian medium education as a Pūnana Leo o Hilo parent. Her eldest son was one of the first to attend Pūnana Leo. All 3 of her children graduated from Pūnana Leo and Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu, a Hawaiian medium education school. She is now a proud kupuna of 5, all who attend or have graduated from Pūnana Leo o Hilo. Her family represents one of a handful of families who have come full circle and are now a second generation seeking to re-establish Hawaiian as the language of communication amongst Hawaiians themselves.
Throughout her years of involvement in the Hawaiian language revitalization movement, she has served on numerous school committees, community boards, and taught Hawaiian language and culture classes at Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.
ʻEkekela is excited about the ʻAha Pūnana Leo’s direction and expansion and looks forward to leading it. “We’ve experienced tremendous success in the past 29 years. I’m focused on the years ahead, and identifying and mentoring those who will carry on our vision for our moʻopuna and moʻopuna kuakahi a mau.”