Message from the Foundation Board President

Mary Tenney Castle, founder of the Samuel & Mary Castle Foundation, recognized the importance of Hawaii’s most valuable resource, its keiki, early on and pioneered the kindergarten movement in our State.  Her commitment to quality early education and broadening access was designed to improve the life of Hawaii’s children.  The trustees of the Foundation remain committed to these principles as stewards of Mrs. Castle’s legacy by supporting efforts which have the potential to result in a more equitable Hawaii, where children become life-long learners who are active and effective participants in our democracy.

The total grant distribution for 2018 was just under $2 million.  The focus of proposals funded was once again to support efforts to deliver quality early learning opportunities for children while also supporting families as a child’s first teacher and recognizing that enhancing equity for our keiki is a complex proposition, requiring a broad-based approach to addressing community needs.

Professional development for early learning practitioners and directors remains a high priority of the Trustees.  Our partnership with the Erikson Institute, along with KCAA’s CEED Center and Chaminade University, provided math and literacy workshops for public and private educators again this year.  Over the years, these workshops have proven transformational for many teachers who report their practice is more responsive to children’s development.  Funding to support teacher learning about socio-emotional development of young children through workshops and bringing a key mainland early learning expert to Hawaii addressed a critical need defined by the early learning community as well.  And while we re-consider how best to deliver the Castle Colleagues Program, the trustees have engaged in a partnership with HANO to provide directors with needed professional development as well.

The Foundation continues to support tuition assistance for private pre-schools while also working with the Executive Office on Early Learning to increase access to, and quality in the public pre-school program.  While teacher training is the primary program element for this effort, advocacy, support for the development of a State Early Learning Plan and facilitating a P-3 continuum of early education remain on-going objectives.  Grants, too, have been made to both the University of Hawaii and Chaminade University to assist those pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in early childhood.  This is a critical area as the need for capacity-building across the state, along with attracting and retaining early educators, borders on the desperate.

2018 was the third year of a pioneering project to support existing well-established programs that address general family support.  $500,000 was dedicated for these grants which are unrestricted, intended for human service organizations addressing child and family well-being and designed to positively impact Hawaii’s at-risk, low income families.  We are excited about the results of these grants that not only respect cultural differences and build upon cultural assets but also feature multi-generational work toward eliminating poverty.  Understanding the variable and inter-related factors that affect children 0 – 5 and their potential for success, the Trustees seek to support family security through this program as a foundational element.

Al Castle serves as the Executive Director of the Samuel N. & Mary Castle Foundation and is recognized in our community as the premier advocate for early learning and young children.  His voice and leadership facilitate efforts to keep this urgent issue before the public and supported by the philanthropic community.  Recognized nationally, Mr. Castle is a director of the Early Education Funders Collaborative (EEFC) serving as an advisor on early education priorities for the White House.  In November of 2018, he chaired a Hawaii Study Tour for EEFC which brought key funders to Hawaii seeking to better understand the relationship between place-based cultural elements and early learning.  Through his efforts, Hawaii remains a key resource for funders while Mr. Castle also leverages funding initiatives to better support Hawaii’s keiki.

My colleagues and I share our appreciation for our partners in the community who join with us in this critical work, and for those who daily deliver quality experiences to young children and their families; it is those relationships that make the most difference in a child’s life and future success.

With Warm Aloha,

Robert G. Peters
Foundation President

January, 2019