Student employees share their memories of fun, friends and aloha

Written and generously shared by Brooke Guryn at the Ke Alaka’i, BYU Hawaii’s student magazine

Students who have been working at the Polynesian Cultural Center said they miss the loud cheering crowds of visitors, dancing with their friends, making visitors smile and seeing their ohana every day. 

Polynesian Cultural Center dancer

Meere Birima, a student at BYUH, performs at HUKI: A Canoe Celebration at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Image courtesy of Leila Tuinei

Working at the Center is all about heart

“It’s fun to [blow little] kisses, and the kids catch the kiss, and if they do it back, I catch it and bring it to my heart. They think we’re so cool, even though we’re not that cool,” said Meere Birima, a freshman from Utah majoring in elementary education and dancer for the Huki: A Canoe Celebration, the Center’s afternoon water-based musical performance. 

Birima also shared she misses seeing her co-workers every day. “They really are some of the best people I have ever met in my life. I feel really blessed to have them in my life.” 

She described working at the Center in one word: heart. She explained, “When working at the Center, people are doing things they are passionate about and with heart. The place itself seems to be alive and has its heartbeat.” 

Another word she gave was love. “Love for [our] culture, love for [our] co-workers, the bond the guests make with the employees, and also the spirit.” 

Picture showcasing the Tahiti dancers during Huki a Canoe Celebration

Photo of Hawaiian canoe filled with hula dancers at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Image by Leila Tuinei.

Go, go, go!

Nephi Moe, a junior from Missouri majoring in exercise and sport science, said, “Every day I would come into work, and we would just have fun. I didn’t feel like I was working. I was able to relieve the stress from [school] and other things. 

“We are just regular students and people who still have fun on the job. We are all students trying to make ends meet …, [but] we make the most of it by sharing the spirit of aloha, dancing, sharing our culture, and learning more about our culture and others.” 

Moe explained he misses the fast-paced nature of being in the night show (HA: Breath of Life). He loved the constant go, go, go of changing scenes, costumes and dances. He said he and his co-workers miss the fatigue, yelling at one another and the exhilaration of performing. 

He shared, “There’s never a dull moment. Even when we perform the same dance, same moves, same music, there’s always a different story that happens. Whether that is someone tripping or falling into the lagoon, or someone forgetting their motions.” He used “organized chaos” to describe working at the Polynesian Cultural Center. 

Two women preparing to dance at the Polynesian Cultural Center

Leila Tuinei (left) and her co-worker value working at the Polynesian Cultural Center and the friends they make. Image courtesy of Leila Tuinei

Just like family

Leila Tuinei, a sophomore from American Samoa majoring in business, said, “I love being able to share my culture. It’s always been something very important to me, and to be able to be paid and have a job where I can do that every day is very special to [me]. 

“We get to preserve our culture in a very wholesome way. I love sharing aloha through dance and music,” she added. 

Her favorite memory was when she passed the dances for the night show, Hawaii, Tahiti, and Aotearoa. She said, “It was emotional when I danced in my first night show because everyone had worked so hard, including me. It was a confidence booster.” 

She misses her co-workers the most. “Family” is a word Tuinei used to describe working at the Center. 

She said, “the Polynesian Cultural Center is a home away from home. It’s hard to be away from the family and go to college, so it is nice to have a family here.” 

Each student said they value the time spent with their  ‘ohana, and said they are eager to see one another again when the the Center reopens. 



If you would like to learn more about some of our amazing full-time and student employees,

CLICK HERE to view our Honua video series,

plus other beautiful videos full of heart, joy and aloha.

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