Skip to main content

West Valley City Journal

PIK2AR helps support students after shooting

May 02, 2022 09:22PM ● By Liz Craker

By Liz Craker | [email protected]

With the help of local nonprofit Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources (PIK2AR), Hunter High School students continue to heal after the Jan. 13 shooting, which took place near the high school and resulted in the death of two boys. 

Lulu Latu-Wolfgramm, PIK2AR Empowered Living Services director and youth coordinator, and other PIK2AR staff have been going into classrooms to provide students a safe place for discussion.

After the shootings, PIK2AR staff felt the need to respond, she added, particularly since many Pacific Islanders live and go to school in the area. “PIK2AR decided to reach out to see what we could do to help the students with processing their surroundings and what they needed more cultural awareness in,” Latu-Wolfgramm said.

Several years ago, the school district approved the offering of People of the Pacific (POP) classes to promote cultural relevancy, Latu-Wolfgramm said. PIK2AR has been going into these classes to “talk about our own stories, to make sure that the students understood that we weren’t coming in to just lecture them but to relate to them,” she said. If a POP class is not available, PIK2AR has been available for after-school meetings and other group discussions.

“Our method has really worked, and students have opened up,” Latu-Wolfgramm said.

Part of the students’ struggle comes from the fact that they are part of a newer immigrant group, Latu-Wolfgramm explained. She shared that she is a first-generation Tongan-American, whose parents immigrated to Utah in the 1970s and started their family here. “I grew up in Sugar House, a very white community. I spoke Tongan at home and spoke English at school.  I didn’t feel like I fit in. I wasn’t white, but I spoke like a white person,” she said.

“This experience trickles down to future generations of children, teenagers and young adults.  Many of the Hunter High School students shared with PIK2AR that they didn’t understand their culture, their identity, or their history,” Latu-Wolfgramm said.

The program has been so impactful that Granger and Kearns high school students and staff have reached out to PIK2AR for similar support she said.

Latu-Wolfgramm said that in addition to the cultural isolation, the students all seem lost since the pandemic.

“Bullying and other issues have come up. The students had been in isolation doing everything online. Then they are thrown back into school and to class. This has caused a lot of mental health and bullying issues,” she said. 

Latu-Wolfgramm wants the students and others to see that these problems among students are not gang issues. “There is simply not enough confidence in our youth in who they are,” she said.

PIK2AR formed as a volunteer organization to develop programs and events to eliminate violence, to empower, to improve health, and to increase personal and financial growth into ethnic and underserved households. PIK2AR also promotes Pacific Island cultures by creating alliances and bridging across all communities sharing resources, education, and support. The organization has also promoted vaccination and awareness events during the COVID-19 pandemic.