Build­ing Con­fi­dence

Rick Ru­tiz has taken Hana kids out­side of the class­room and changed their lives

The Maui News - - FRONT PAGE - As­sis­tant City Ed­i­tor By COLLEEN UECHI

Af­ter 19 years of teach­ing stu­dents how to build cot­tages for kupuna and class­rooms for their school, Rick Ru­tiz is step­ping down as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Ma Ka Hana Ka ‘Ike.

The long­time Hana res­i­dent will be retiring from the non­profit on July 1, hand­ing over the reins to the young peo­ple he’s men­tored over the past two decades.

“I’m go­ing to be 66 this June, and I get to do something else when I grow up with my life,” Ru­tiz said Sun­day, days af­ter an­nounc­ing that he would re­tire. “This will be 19 years of 60-hour weeks, and ba­si­cally the non­profit’s been both mine and my wife’s whole life.”

Lipoa Ka­haleuahi, a pro­gram grad­u­ate, will take over as di­rec­tor, and Ru­tiz said he has to­tal con­fi­dence that the next gen­er­a­tion “will be able to take Ma Ka Hana Ka ‘Ike to new heights.”

Ma Ka Hana Ka ‘Ike (in work­ing, one learns) gives youths in Hana an ed­u­ca­tion out­side of the tra­di­tional class­room, teach­ing them hands-on build­ing skills that not only help the com­mu­nity but could lead to a fu­ture ca­reer. Over the years, stu­dents in the pro­gram have built class­rooms for Hana High and Ele­men­tary School, cot­tages and hand­i­cap ramps for kupuna and so­lar-pow-

ered bath­houses for large fam­i­lies.

Part of the rea­son Ru­tiz con­nects so well with the youths in his pro­gram is be­cause he used to be like them — a kid who learned bet­ter out­side of the class­room.

“In high school, I skated by all right, but I found no rea­son to be there,” said Ru­tiz, who grew up in the San Fer­nando Val­ley in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. “I was star­ing out the win­dow, wish­ing I was out­side do­ing something else.”

He went to col­lege be­cause that was “the thing to do.” But it was 1971, the Viet­nam War was drag­ging on, and all Ru­tiz re­ally did dur­ing his fresh­man year was party and protest the war. Af­ter one year at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Irvine, he left and found his way to Paris, where he ran out of money and squat­ted in derelict build­ings un­til he landed a job as a chef.

Near the end of his six years in Paris, Ru­tiz had the chance to open a res­tau­rant in a con­verted mar­ble and gran­ite fab­ri­ca­tion build­ing.

“So I got a crash course in build­ing from some great ar­ti­sans, great French builders,” Ru­tiz said. “That was my first fas­ci­na­tion and love with build­ing things.”

Ru­tiz then spent three years teach­ing at a bush school in Kenya, where he and the other staff had to con­struct their own build­ings. When Ru­tiz came back to the U.S., he de­cided to turn his pas­sion for build­ing into a busi­ness, and has now been a li­censed con­trac­tor for more than 35 years.

In 1986, Ru­tiz moved to Maui, where he taught math at Hana School, helped coach base­ball and soc­cer and got in­volved in his daugh­ter’s hula ha­lau. As he worked more with the youths in the com­mu­nity,

Rick Ru­tiz (left), ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Ma Ka Hana Ka ‘Ike, takes mea­sure­ments on a job site in Hana in March of 2013. Af­ter 19 years of teach­ing hands-on build­ing skills to stu­dents, Ru­tiz will re­tire from the non­profit on July 1.

Pho­tos cour­tesy Rick Ru­tiz and Kirsten What­ley

Stu­dents work to­gether on a build­ing in 2004. One of the stu­dents, 16-year-old James Freuden­bergPu (far left), has gone on to be­come the man­ager of Ma Ka Hana Ka ‘Ike’s build­ing pro­gram.

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