I sustain myself with the love of family ~ M. Angelou
History and Background
The Voices of Pacific Island Nations, or VOPIN, is a 501.C.3 nonprofit organization established in 2015 to address the longstanding academic crisis among Pacific Islander (PI) students in Washington State schools. This setback has plagued the PI community for decades and, left unchecked, is likely to grow, potentially having a negative social and economic impact on our state and its affected communities.
Pacific Islander students have been overlooked in educational research, equality, and inclusion. Their educational inequity in Washington State schools is evident as far back as the '70s. According to data published by various organizations such as OSPI (Washington State's Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction), Pacific Islander students are frequently at a disadvantage in Washington State schools. They are more likely to come from families below the poverty level. A substantial number of our students are not meeting the academic standards based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) state test. Their disciplinary rates are disproportionately higher relative to their total student enrollment. They have one of the highest chronic absenteeism and dropout rates among students of color.
The PI students' academic crisis is partially obscured due to how Pacific Islander and Asian students are lumped into one category, Asian Pacific Islander (API) or Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI). Findings suggest that Pacific Islander students in Washington are at a great disadvantage with lower levels of academic performance and school engagement. Hence, whenever their data are combined into one category, Asian Americans predominate and the representation of Pacific Islanders is lost. Treating the two groups as a single community of Asian Pacific Islander Americans hinders an examination of the distinctiveness of Pacific Islander students and their educational experience (Hune and Yeo, 2010). This categorization unintentionally underrepresents and underserved PI students and their families. The alarming data have motivated PI parents, grandparents, educators, and PI community members to collectively plan and develop short- and long-term strategies to address this crisis.
Pacific Islanders are most proud of their cultural identity, expressed through their culture and arts. Through the centuries, their learning style has been hands-on, learning by doing. Our values define the way we interact, individually and collectively. Pasefika (Pacific) values shape our culture and reflect what's important to us. Our faith, values, culture, and arts have and will remain the fabric of our society.
VOPIN and our communities regard our youth as future leaders and share our history and heritage with others. Therefore, VOPIN is committed to providing youth leadership and development to empower them to take ownership of a just society. Addressing the PI community inequities will require the support of all stakeholders from the private and public sectors. Thank you for your continuous support of the Mission and Vision of Voices Of Pacific Island Nations!