Moiliilii Community Center started as a Japanese language school before becoming a non-profit a place where folks can get support and services. 

Recently, it underwent a big renovation project, and it’s all thanks to one ambitious teenager. He’s our newest Whiz Kid. 

Moiliilii Community Center has been around for 117 years.

Hundreds of kupuna and children pass filter through its doors daily. 

For many, it’s the highlight of their day.

It’s been under construction this past week.

Spearheading the $30,000 project is 17-year-old Cole Nagata.

“We had something on our wish list for decades,” said Moiliili Community Center executive director Nadine Nishioka. “I was joking around. ‘Cole if you want a challenging project, why don’t you turf our existing grass?’ I took him outside, looked at the grass. He said, ‘Let me figure something out.’ I said, ‘Seriously?’ I was kind of joking.”

Cole wasn’t.

As a Boy Scout working to gain Eagle rank, the highest achievement in the program, the Punahou student’s project is installing turf at the center.

“For the last year I’ve been trying to plan this project,” said Cole Nagata. “This used to be dirt and grass. It used to be a play area for kids. The want was to get rid of that and turn it into fake grass. Because of the weather conditions, it’s not the greatest for kids. They can kick up dirt. It’s not usable for seniors because they can’t use their walkers on it because it’s uneven.”

“This project well exceeds $30,000,” added Nishioka. “The center being we’re a non profit, money is hard to come by. For Cole to take on this project. It’s a very difficult project. Professionals would have taken weeks to complete this. Cole is completing this project in one week.”

“It was, very difficult, organization and planning,” said Nagata. “It taught me a lot in that sense. I’ve never done something like this.  Do we need permits for certain things? How are we going to schedule what the community center is doing while we’re doing the construction. I had to learn and organize. Definitely. It was like a whoa! That’s a huge project. There was definitely a bit of doubt. But a lot of people I worked with felt it could be done, and they were supportive. It was great. It makes me feel really good. One of the biggest things initially was I wanted to do something important that would make a difference. If the seniors and kids make more use out of it, that’s a plus for me. That’s what makes me feel good. I want to make a difference here.”