A Legacy of Love

Loretta Luke Yajima (right) has been the driving force behind the newly expanded Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center for two decades, and now her daughter Liane Usher is working there as director so Isle children such as daughter Chloe can have a place to play and learn

Wednesday - January 07, 2009

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Gabrielle Biersach, 7, takes Chimaine Pouteau for a ride

his desk drawer and he got out his personal checkbook and he wrote me a personal check.

“It just overwhelmed me that that’s how we were going to build this children’s museum - person to person. Hawaii is such a giving community and really family-oriented.”

Yajima grew up in Manoa and graduated from Punahou School in 1964. She later earned a degree in education from Skidmore College in New York, where she volunteered her time with children with disabilities and underserved audiences. She also has a master’s degree in early childhood education from the University of Hawaii.

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Her passion for education and children runs deep in her blood as both her parents were educators. Dad, the late Kan Jung Luke, was known as Hawaii’s millionaire schoolteacher - he founded Hawaii National Bank and volunteered his services at UH, teaching business and finance for more than 22 years. Her mother Beatrice was a public high school teacher.

Now the legacy continues as Yajima’s family - husband Tyler and daughters Liane Usher, Lara Siu and Tiffany Yajima - have been fully supportive of the effort it has taken to bring the center to where it is today. All have volunteered at the center at one time or another and, of course, Usher now on a daily basis.

Usher, a 1996 graduate of Punahou School who was recruited by the board of directors to lead the center through the next stage of development, has a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Wheaton College and a master’s degree in education from Harvard.

“The Children’s Discovery Center has always been a part of my life,” says Usher. “I’ve always loved working with children. I think I get that from my mom.”

Board member Steven Ai, a kid at heart, plays at the bubble well
Justin Souza, 3, of Wahiawa takes the wheel of the firetruck

But for Yajima, her dedication to the center is a legacy that extends beyond her own family.

“In the beginning, the legacy was a gift to the children from donors and volunteers who made the center possible,” says Yajima. “Now, the legacy is much larger than that. It is the love that is passed on and communicated between parent and child when they come to the center.

“In many ways, the legacy is what the center stands for - empowering children, instilling in them a pride in their ethnic and cultural heritage, and the importance of learning as a lifelong endeavor. And I hope it will continue to grow and be passed on from generation to generation.”

For more information on the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center, including hours of operation, educational programs, facility rental and donor opportunities, visit: http://www.discoverycenterhawaii.org

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