A Star’s Positive Impact In Wahiawa

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - October 20, 2010
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When Adam Lambert and I finally connected for this week’s cover story, we started off by discussing a Hawaii connection - yes, he has one!

Lambert’s charity of choice, DonorsChoose.org, has benefited local kids in several Hawaii schools, and he was pleased when I told him that. “Yes, I’ve recently learned that when school budgets get cut, the arts are often the first programs to go,” Lambert says.

Ever since Lambert wowed viewers with his successful run on American Idol, his fans have expressed their adoration by showering him with expensive gifts. He finally said “enough,” and asked that they donate to public schools instead of spending their hard-earned cash on him. And it’s worked. So far his various fan groups have funneled more than a half million dollars to students across the U.S. Some of those kids are right here in our neighborhoods.

Debbie Agpaoa teaches band at Wahiawa Middle School. She didn’t have any knowledge of Lambert, and was skeptical of the program when she first signed up. But no more. Through the kindness of strangers from all parts of the country - all Lambert fans - her program has received two precious instruments: a clarinet and, just a couple of weeks ago, a trumpet. (See page 54 for a photo.)

“The kids were all excited.

Everybody was anxious to see it and touch it,” she says.

Believe me, this is a big deal for them. Wahiawa Middle sits in a low-income neighborhood. In one class alone, Agpaoa has 50 eager kids and not enough instruments to go around. Imagine sharing a clarinet or a trumpet with three or four other students. The kids don’t complain, they make do with what they have. So they appreciate whatever they get. And the instruments they received from DonorsChoose.org are excellent.

“The instruments are very good quality,” says Agpaoa. “You know, right now we’re just buying the cheaper things, but yeah, when we get something with that kind of quality it’s even more exciting.”

Lambert turned to DonorsChoose.org because he saw it as a way to give back. When he was in high school he was “not the most popular kid” and lonely. The music and drama classes were a sanctuary and provided him with a much-needed social group. Lambert is passionate about this because he speaks from experience: “What about the kids who are a little different, who aren’t into sports? They need a place to go, too.”

Agpaoa is grateful and impressed. “I think he’s a thoughtful person; he thinks of other people. It really is cool how he puts himself out there for other people.”

She also says the experience has provided her an opportunity to talk with her kids about issues they don’t normally discuss.

“As soon as I say Adam Lambert, they say, oh, the gay guy. But when I tell the kids what he’s done for us, they get really excited. Now it’s, ‘Oh, yeah, Adam Lambert. He helped us get instruments.’”

And the conversation doesn’t stop there. Agpaoa told her kids that you can’t judge a person by their sexual orientation: “You have to judge them by the type of person they are. And he’s obviously given a lot to a lot of people. I mean, he’s got a lot of influence and he uses it positively. So I think the kids are really getting that message.”

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