Sergeant Rudy Dela Cruz Jr., a 2000 Molokai High School graduate, brought his U.S. Army training back to Molokai last Friday to teach students at Kualapu’u Elementary School some important lessons about fitness, teamwork and leadership.
Students at Kualapu’u, Molokai’s only public charter school, receive 30 minutes of daily physical education instruction as well as a weekly fitness class that combines lessons in healthy living with Molokai and Hawaiian culture. Dela Cruz was invited by the staff to lead the morning PE and fitness classes and show the students what military training is really about.
A certified instructor in the Army, Dela Cruz said he loves to teach and saw this as an opportunity to give back to the kids of Molokai.
“It was awesome,” said Del Cruz, the son of Danialla and Rudy Dela Cruz. “I was able to identify with some of kids, I loved it. I think they were very inspired by what they saw.”
Dela Cruz spoke with the students about the importance of physical fitness in life, emphasizing how it helps build teamwork and camaraderie.
After creating student teams of four, Dela Cruz guided them through physical fitness training exercises designed to build leadership skills. The challenges included an obstacle course, calisthenics, stretching, push-ups, a low crawl, sit-ups, sprint pull-ups and Iron Mikes (hands behind head and bend knees to touch the ground).
One team of sixth graders exemplified the spirit of the exercise. When one of the team members struggled to complete a pull-up the others joined together and grabbed him around the waist to help him up. “That really captures everything,” said Dela Cruz.
Currently in between duty stations, Sergeant Dela Cruz was recently transferred from Fort Campbell, Kentucky to a base in Italy where he will continue working as a signal support system specialist beginning in January. As an IT tech, Dela Cruz fixes radios and other communication devices but has recently been working with his counterparts in computers and is now “diving into the computer side.”
Before joining the military, Dela Cruz worked in Maui for Cruise Lines International and was then transferred by the company to Virginia. After getting passed over for a managerial position, Dela Cruz and his wife decided joining the military would offer the best chance for him to continue his education. “The security for my family (Dela Cruz has two daughters) was one of my biggest motivations.”
Dela Cruz grew up in Maunaloa and then moved to Kaunakakai where he attended elementary school. He saw this fitness challenge as a great opportunity to give back to his home community. His mom, Aunty Dani, works with Kualapu’u’s PSAP, Primary School Adjustment Program.
“Lots of kids were skeptical at first,” said Dela Cruz, “but once doing it they had a great time.” In fact, one of the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program sixth grade girls, Marlena Kamai Pupuhi, said she was so enthused, “I couldn’t wait to begin.” Pupuhi was one of the first to finish then began helping her team members once she finished.