Efforts to provide childcare for temple members began in the 1940s and 1950s. Following the end of World War II in the mid-1940s, Mrs. Edith Izumi started a nursery, but because of a lack of enrollment, the nursery closed after a few years. Then in the 1950s, Mrs. Alice Tokunaga served as director of Tot Town. When she accepted a teaching job with the Department of Education, the nursery closed due to lack of teachers.
Wailuku Hongwanji Mission established its preschool in 1962. Mrs. Sylvia Ishikawa served as the first preschool director. When Mrs. Ishikawa went on leave, Mrs. Teruko Ballinger served as acting director, with Mrs. Carolyn Hozaki as an assistant. In 1964, Mrs. Nancy Oishi became director of the preschool and served for 28 years. In 1970, the preschool hired Mrs. Karen Yoshida as a certified teacher. She was a teacher for 22 years. When Mrs. Oishi retired in 1992, Mrs. Yoshida took over and served as director. When Mrs. Yoshida retired in the spring of 2019, Cathy DiMeo Cole assumed the directorship role. In the fall of 2020, we welcome a new director, Alysha Asue, to help guide our school in the years to come.
The preschool was established to provide care and guidance for the children of the Wailuku Hongwanji members, and to introduce and promote an understanding of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. The first class included about ten children. The preschool now operates year-round, with an enrollment of about 45 children and a qualified staff including a director, certified early childhood teachers, teachers’ aides, and a cook. The preschool continues to serve the families of temple members and the general public by providing a quality program in early childhood education, and allowing working parents to meet the economic needs of their families.
The goals of the preschool are to provide an enriching early childhood program that will provide an environment in which children are able to learn and grow emotionally, socially, and cognitively to their fullest potential. The staff strives to provide a happy, positive, loving, and safe environment to help all children to become enthusiastic, self-confident, and inquisitive learners through developmentally appropriate practices and activities. The preschool provides a foundation for learning through play.
The preschool’s slogan is “We’re Making Tomorrow.” Wailuku Hongwanji Preschool has been serving the community and “making tomorrows” for more than 50 years.