In Partnership with the Southern Weekend

Zippy’s server shares love of ‘Olelo Hawaii

Koko Casey is a part-time server at Zippy's in Hilo. She is fluent in 'olelo Hawaii and regularly uses it when she knows her customers are also fluent.

Sponsored by Zippy’s

Casey learned ‘olelo Hawaii at Kamehameha Schools in Maui, where she was required to learn the language from 7th to 12th grade. She continued taking ‘olelo through college, and is now an ‘olelo teacher at Ke Kula O Nawahiokalaniopuu Iki Lab Public Charter School. One of her classes operates through the University of Hawaii at Hilo, so she also lectures for the university.

Casey is the first in her family to speak ‘olelo. Her grandfather was part of the generation that was forbidden from speaking in their native language, so she wants to revive the language inside and outside of her family. Her goal is to spread the cultural knowledge of ‘olelo Hawaii to as many people as possible. By speaking the language at Zippy’s she also hopes to normalize the language in everyday use and bring it back into the community while making Zippy’s feel like a part of the family unit.

When Casey’s customers hear her speak ‘olelo, she says they tend to be both surprised and excited. They often include keiki in the conversation as well, with the adults helping the children learn more of the language. Casey also says that when non-‘olelo speakers hear her, they may ask about the language. This allows her to begin an open discussion about ‘olelo and share Hawaiian culture with Zippy’s guests.

During Merrie Monarch, Zippy’s is feeding Hawaii News Now staff on Hilo who are covering the event. Together, Zippy’s and Hawaii News Now have kuleana to perpetuate everything that makes Hawaii special. Zippy’s celebrates all the cultures that make Hawaii unique by local food and Hawaiian food every Friday.

For more information: