Awakening Wisdom is based on the Ho`āla Educational Philosophy, founded in large part by Sr. Joan Madden, BVM, and has been finely tuned over the past 42 years at three schools, Our Lady of Sorrows and Ho`āla School, both in Wahiawa, HI, and River School in Napa, CA.
Members of the Board of this nonprofit are dedicated to bringing Awakening Wisdom to students, teachers, and families to transform education and contribute to a better world for all.
”Perhaps it was my Methodist upbringing or becoming a social justice advocate in the 60’s and 70’s that created in me a desire to create a better world and to inspire youth to do the same. It’s no surprise then that I am a Star Trek fan, a believer of Gene Roddenberry’s bright future for mankind. I am inspired by my colleagues of the Ho`āla Foundation for Education who are passionate, talented educators. They give me energy to work with parents, educators, and students. Seeing students who are shy and withdrawn transform into articulate, confident learners as a result of Awakening Wisdom is truly a gift of doing this work. My heroes are the educators, parents, and students who dare to dream big and transform themselves out of small boxes into big do-ers who create a better world for all!”
”Everyone’s story is important. I help kids and adults tell their stories, share their voices, and explore the depth of the lessons we learn through storytelling. I had the opportunity to meet Sr. Joan in Hawai’i, serve on the River School Board, and am excited about sharing Awakening Wisdom with the world! My favorite thing is to help teachers and students engage in meaningful and joyful learning that sparks curiosity and creativity for a lifetime. Within a context of mutual respect, the educational enterprise can truly develop and support individuals who can focus on the problems of the world—and have a hand in solving them. During my 43 years in education, I have championed the importance of positive relationships within schools and beyond, and know that Awakening Wisdom’s implicit curriculum adds a great deal to the possibilities for success for all students.”
”Volunteerism has always been part of my DNA. It brought me to Hawai`i from Boston as a missionary teacher after college. It led me to the not-for-profit world, serving as a Board member, administrator and consultant for numerous organizations. It even directed me to serve the residents and staff at Kalaupapa Settlement, the former Hansen’s Disease Colony established by Father Damian on Moloka’i, as a grant writer and Reiki practitioner.
When not working on launching the Awakening Wisdom effort, I can be found on or in the ocean, both the Atlantic and Pacific. Sailing and kayaking are my preferred ocean experiences. The inspirational highlight of my seafaring was sailing on Hokule’a, a double-hulled Polynesian sailing canoe, during the Massachusetts transit of Leg 21 for Malama Honua that was part of the three-year voyage around the world using traditional Hawai’ian methods of navigation.”
“As a parent of a child who went through River School, I saw firsthand the Awakening Wisdom program and Ho’āla philosophy through the actions of my daughter who gained confidence, self-reliance, and resilience in finding her passion and purpose. As a parent, I learned how to be an advocate and help my son find his voice in getting the support he needed both academically and emotionally in a more traditional school setting. Through my work with at-risk youth, my goals are to mentor them to stay in school, make good choices, and assist them with access to community services. I want to empower them to see the bigger picture, to be leaders for the next generation, and to steward kindness in making schools and communities more inclusive environments. I am always researching new multi-arena approaches to improving student emotional and social wellbeing.
Volunteering has been a way for me to create community opportunities for youth through teaching gardening skills, helping with service projects, advocating for social emotional wellness and promoting access to the arts. I believe every adult can make an indelible difference by mentoring a child and that mentoring can be life changing.”
Sarah Sarkis is a Licensed Psychologist, Psy.D. and writer with a private practice that blends her strong psychodynamic and insight oriented training with more traditional behavior and mind/body techniques to help her patients leverage insight, change, and growth. She’s studied extensively the use of mindfulness, functional medicine, hormones, and how food, medicine and mood are interconnected.
Originally hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, Sarah now lives in Honolulu, Hawaii. She studied at Georgetown University, Boston College, and George Washington University. Her influences include Dr.’s Hyman, Benson, Kabat-Zinn and Gordon, as well as Tara Brach, Brené Brown, Irvin Yalom, Howard Stern, and Bruce Springsteen to name only a few.
Please visit her home on the web, The Padded Room, to join her mailing list, read other essays, or connect with her about collaborating.
”There have been periods in my life when I felt just the right amount of unhappiness and dissatisfaction, which I used to take stock of my life, evaluate my options, and make strategic choices. These choices have transformed me and made subsequent decision making simple and fast. I live easily with my choices even though implementing them has been hard.
Thus, I came to the U.S. from India as a 19-year old student by picking the least expensive universities in the U.S. and the ones with the lowest application fees; to the Napa Valley wine industry although I didn’t drink alcohol; and to the renewable energy industry without knowing, then, the difference between a kilowatt and a kilowatt hour.
I am married to Seena (to whom I got engaged after a 10-minute meeting). My daughters, Parvathi and Priyanka, are currently enrolled in River school.“
“Throughout my life and career, I have had leaders and people I admire comment on this indescribable quality or maturity that they have observed in my behaviour; whether it was in relation to how I have dealt with people or in difficult situations. When they ask where I learned those qualities, I used to shrug and say “That’s just what I’ve always done. We learned to do stuff like that in school.” Usually, there is a look of confusion and disbelief. This is the moment that constantly reminds me of how unique Ho`āla (known today as Awakening Wisdom) is and how it has fundamentally shaped my life both personally and professionally.”
“From your first day at school till the day you walk out of its doors, you are reminded that all of your actions have consequences. Through processes like clearings and classes like nurturing or connection you practice understanding and empathy. There is a realisation that there are multiple truths to each story depending on your perspective. Understanding these key principles and taking responsibility for your actions have profound positive effects on those around you. These are just a few reasons why I am passionate about helping the Ho`āla Foundation for Education spread its mission. In today’s world where kids are influenced by false idols and a culture with diminishing respect of self and others, I think that it is as imperative as ever to get this philosophy into more schools.”
It was the end of the school day in Hawai’i and students were leaving for home. With the Wai’anae Mountains off in the distance, Sr. Joan Madden stood on the second floor lanai watching them go. She thought, “They enter in kindergarten and leave in eighth grade with knowledge and skills, but very little wisdom about who they are and their place in the world.” This moment crystallized for her the desire to explore how to organize a school’s environment and its implicit curriculum so that young people gained more wisdom about themselves and about their connection to others and to their world.
She began conversations with Dr. Raymond Corsini, an Adlerian psychologist and professor at the University of Hawai’i, about an alternative educational program in which children would gain a sense of their own power by providing them with appropriate choices and appropriate, respectful consequences. Recognizing that the dynamics within a family play a significant role in shaping the psyche of a student, she, with Dr. Corsini’s help, led Adlerian Mothers Study Groups in the convent so that school and home worked together to nurture self-assured young people growing to their full potential.
In 1972 Sr. Joan with Dr. Corsini’s help began reorganizing Our Lady of Sorrows School by incorporating the principles of Adlerian and Rogerian psychology over the next 14 years into the implicit curriculum that came to be known as Awakening Wisdom. In 1986, she and the staff started an independent school called Ho`āla School. From there, Linda Inlay, the assistant principal, took this philosophy into a new charter school, River School, in Napa, California, where she continued to develop and inculcate these principles with her staff, parents, and students for 18 years with successful results.
When you visit these schools, you immediately feel the respectful relationships of a healthy culture. Students are cared for, engaged, and feel that school is a home away from home.
After 14 years of development of Awakening Wisdom at Our Lady of Sorrows School, the staff started an independent school called Ho`āla School in 1986, where Awakening Wisdom continues to nurture self- confidence and independence in every child.
Since its first year of adopting Awakening Wisdom in 2015, the school culture of the Napa County Juvenile Court and Community Schools has been strengthened with foundational work on mission, intended pupil outcomes, behavioral agreements, and a schoolwide discipline plan. Professional development continues with support staff regarding shifting mindsets, deep listening, and responsible speaking.
Empower learners. Create community. Free minds.