Group Photo with officials from the PBA and Hongwanji communities (Photos by Jodie Ching)
Officials (seated) gather for a group photo in the ampitheater with the PBA and Hongwanji communities. From left: Pieper Toyama, president, Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii; Josh Hernandez Morse, PBA head of school; Reverend Keiichi Abe, Governor of Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha; Monshu Kojun Ohtani from Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha; Bishop Eric Matsumoto of Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii; Leigh-Ann Miyasato, chair, PBA board of trustees; and Gaylene Wong, representing the Weinberg Foundation. (Photos by Jodie Ching)

Jodie Chiemi Ching
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Expressions of love and gratitude flowed through the halls of Pacific Buddhist Academy’s new $9 million campus addition on Sept. 8 as the school community and supporters from Hawai‘i and abroad came together to dedicate the new building. Candles, flowers, incense and melodic chants were offered before a beautiful Buddhist altar that had been handcrafted in Kyöto just for the school. Among the special guests from Japan was Monshu Kojun Ohtani, head minister of Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha (Hongwanji headquarters in Kyöto).

“This new learning environment dramatically enhances our ability to provide students with leadership skills in the service of peace in Hawai‘i’s communities,” said PBA’s head of school Josh Hernandez Morse. The expanded learning space also enables PBA to double its student enrollment from the current 70 to 140 students.

The new 12,000-square foot multipurpose building on the slopes of Punchbowl is located behind the Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin temple, on the Lusitana Street side of the campus. It gives PBA eight new classrooms; a science lab designed for microbiology and physical science applications; studios for fine arts, music and filmmaking; a tearoom and movable walls providing flexible learning spaces. Rim Architects Hawaii incorporated open spaces with natural lighting into its design, such as an outdoor natural amphitheater that can be turned into a learning space or a gathering area. Additionally, teachers will be able to use various rooms for their lessons rather than being limited to just one room.

“It’s thrilling to have such an expansive new science lab,” said science teacher Steven James. “Until now, we’ve had to conduct labs within the confines of a typical classroom, but with new dedicated lab space, so many possibilities open up to us,” James said, excitedly. “This will give us the opportunity to expand and redesign our science curriculum to be even more research- and project-focused than it already is. We can take students well beyond lectures and simple labs toward meaningful scientific experiments.”

PBA’s students are just as excited about their new learning environment.

“I’m so excited,” said freshman Kona Min Chew. “I think studying is going to be a lot easier because more space has less distractions.”

Sophomore Ashley Galicinao-Ripley and her classmates plan to give their campus lots of tender loving care.

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Pacific Buddhist Academy is still seeking donations to purchase equipment for its science, digital media and music programs. To donate, call the school at (808) 532-2649.

Jodie Ching is a freelance writer and blogger who also works for her family’s accounting firm in Kaimukï. She has a bachelor’s degree in Japanese from the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa and is a past recipient of the Okinawa Prefectural Government Foundation scholarship.

The altar was donated by Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha.


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