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Jean Kelley, the first Ni‘ihau student at Kamehameha

Honolulu Advertiser
September 1953

Jean Kelley Won Honors, Awards
First Niʻihau Student at Kamehameha Returns to Be Aide to Housemother

Returning to the Kamehameha Schools she loved so much as a student is Niihau's own Jean Kelley, where she will take over her duties as associate housemother at the Kaiulani home, which is operated by the schools for seventh grade boarders.

Jean, first Niihau student to attend Kamehameha, was graduated with the class of 1952.  She will help supervise about 40 seventh grade girls during the coming year, working in association with Mrs. Nora Chang, head housemother.

Jean, though born in Kona, Hawaii, was taken to Niihau when about two months old and has lived on the tiny privately-owned island which has well acquainted her with the problems and needs of her people.  During her five years as a student at Kamehameha her main ambition was to return home and help with the education of her people.

This ambition was partially realized last year when she taught school to first and second grade boys and girls.  The school on Niihau is small as small schools go, but well equipped, and has a teaching staff of three, all natives of the island.

Jean was obliged to give up teaching temporarily due to a shortage of students at the present time, but upon the retirement of one of the instructors, she will again resume her teaching activities.  Her housemother duties at Kaiulani include supervision of the children, their personal appearance, study hall period, cleaning of rooms and supervision of the kitchen.

Jean's warm personality, cheerfulness and willingness to help at all times has already won her the respect and admiration of the girls in her care.  A surprise to most people when meeting her for the first time is her name Kelley, for Jean is 100 percent Hawaiian, as are the other 200 inhabitants of Niihau.  Jean's father, Joseph, who is in charge of the motor pool for the Robinson family, owner of Niihau, was born in Hawaii and when later in life he heard the name, he was so fascinated by it that he promptly changed his name to Kelley.  Jean's mother, Kalei, is a native-born Niihauan.

An outdoor type girl, Jean is fond of horseback riding, swimming, hunting and fishing, and after a hard day's play, or work, is very apt to be heard lazily strumming a guitar or ukulele, at which she excells [sic].  Her musical abilities go much further than that, however, as she plays the piano and accordion and is now interested in studying the harp.

During her senior year at Kamehameha, Jean was the recipient of many honors and awards, among them the permanent silver pin for outstanding citizenship and was also honored with membership in the National Honor society.

As a ninth grader she received the Clarke English award for greatest improvement in English.

Jean is also a deeply religious girl.  She traveled as a member of the Bishop Memorial church deputation team to Maui, Hawaii and Molokai to help conduct church services, and attended Seventh Day Adventist School on Kauai for a year before coming to Kamehameha.

The seventh grade girls at Kaiulani Home consider themselves fortunate indeed in having Jean with them.  She is a fascinating story-teller and tales and legends of Niihau are plentiful and exciting.

She will be able to impart a wealth of knowledge about life on a "Hawaiian" island to her charges, which they will long remember as one of the most rewarding experiences of their school years.

Few people ever visit tiny Niihau, and little is known of life on the island except for goodwill ambassadors like Jean Kelley, who are able to bring an accurate picture of a way of life, as it was lived by the Hawaiians many, many years ago to the neighbor islands.