Whiz Kids: Ryan Kai Kinningham

Whiz Kids

HONOLULU (KHON2) — A lot of us often forget to take a moment and appreciate that we live in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Brigette Namata introduces us to one boy who is trying to preserve the beauty of native Hawaiian plants from a disease that’s killing hundreds of thousands across our islands.

The Ohia tree holds significant cultural value in Hawaii.
When it blooms, the ohia lehua boasts vibrant flowersoften associated with Pele, the Hawaiian fire goddess.
The quick spread of the “rapid ohia death” disease has killed hundreds of thousands of these native trees across the state.
This teen is doing something about it.

“We live on this beautiful earth,” said Whiz Kid Ryan Kai Kinningham. “Nowadays, most people are either glued on their phones or stuck in the house, or a combination of both. Why shouldn’t we celebrate it?”

Ryan Kai Kinningham belongs to Troop 325. The Boy Scout recently spent five months on his Eagle Scout project planting over 100 ohia trees and other native plants in seven locations including Kapiolani Community College and multiple schools.

“Probably my favorite part of the project is we went to Pauoa Elementary, and Ala Wai Elementary” he said. “We worked with Iolani school. We helped educate them on the cultural significance of Ohia. Looking at their faces, seeing their smiles, how much fun they’re having volunteering and what they knew about Hawaiian culture. It was interesting to see how much of an impact Hawaiian studies has gotten across the island.”

He enlisted help from school officials, fellow scouts, friends, and his parents.

The 16-year-old junior from Iolani tells me, he struggled with certain aspects of the project.

He got a taste of what working adults deal with on a daily basis.

“Definitely, definitely communication,” he shared. “Having multiple amount of emails going out at once, having 10 reply all at once. the email chains. iIt can get super confusing. Like, did I respond to you? Communication is key to this project.”

As frustrating as it was, Ryan says it’s made him a better person and a better leader.

“I learned a lot more about what it takes to put this together,” he said. “I got to know a lot more people. I got closer to my friends. It was both beneficial to the community and nature as well. “Taking that first baby step showing yourself, taking assertion of what you want to do, where you want to go with a certain project. That’s the key, really.”

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