Responding to young people saying, “There’s nothing to do here,” Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste set out to provide after-school activities for adolescents, he said.
He shared this idea with members of the Kaua’i County Council, and they enthusiastically supported his mission, he recalled.
“I felt that we needed to do something for our young people,” said Baptiste. “The program offers them a variety of wholesome activities to choose from, and will hopefully keep them engaged so they’ll stay away from drugs.
“Taking care of our children, who are the future of Kaua’i, is our kuleana (responsibility),” he added.
With a $50,000 Community-Oriented Policing grant from leaders of the U.S. Justice Department and a $25,000 appropriation from members of the state Legislature and Gov. Linda Lingle, Malama Na ‘Opio was launched in the Kawaihau (Kapa’a) district earlier this year.
The program offers an array of after-school activities for middle- and high-school students, ages 12 to 17.
Now, Malama Na ‘Opio (care for the children) has expanded to other districts throughout Kaua’i.
“We encourage young people and their parents to check out the program,” said Bernard Carvalho, director of the county Offices of Community Assistance. “There are great activities and classes being offered, and they’re all free.”
He said an extensive survey on what types of after-school activities teens and pre-teens are interested in was conducted last year, and more than 3,000 students participated in the opinion poll.
“We took the results of the survey and designed our program around it,” Carvalho said.
On the North Shore, youngsters can sign up for computer lab or homework hour at Hale Halewai, 826-1011.
On the Eastside, activities and classes including cooking, hip hop, hula, sewing, and ‘ukulele, are held at the Hawaii Army National Guard Kapa’a armory, 241-4468.
On the Westside at the Hanapepe Recreation Center, 335-3731, an all-encompassing program, called Athletes Who Rock, is offered. Components of the program include Power Hour, Fun and Games, Feel the Win, Finishing with Skill, and Charting your Course — Setting your Sails and Survival Skills.
Further west at the Waimea Neighborhood Center, 338-1122, youngsters are able to register for hip hop, homework hour, hula, sewing, swimming, advanced Tahitian dancing, Tahitian drumming, beginning ‘ukulele, and intermediate ‘ukulele.
In addition to the classes, teen recreation rooms are set up at Hale Halewai, Kalaheo Neighborhood Center and the Kapa’a armory.
“The teen rec rooms are popular because they’re equipped with different games, including air hockey, foosball, Game Boy, as well as ping pong, and the kids really enjoy being there,” said Carvalho.
If anyone is interested in taking a class through Malama Na ‘Opio, but lacks transportation to the program site, that shouldn’t prevent them from signing up, Carvalho said.
“We knew that transportation would be an issue for many youngsters, especially those at the middle-school level,” said Carvalho, “so our transportation agency is working closely with the (state) Department of Education, and we’re beginning to expand our bus routes.”
On the Eastside, a student can hop on the 2:45 p.m. bus at Kapa’a Middle School, and ride it to the Kapa’a New Park pavilion for activities at the Kapa’a armory, or continue on to the Kapa’a Boys and Girls Club at 3:10 p.m. for classes there.
Other scheduled stops for this route include the Kapa’a New Park pavilion, 3:30 p.m., and Lihu’e Big Save, 3:50 p.m.
If a person calls ahead, stops can also be made along the way at Kapa’a Public Library, Kapa’a Neighborhood Center, Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital, Kojima Store, Pono Kai Resort, Kapa’a Big Save, Safeway, Wailua Family Restaurant, Hanamaulu Plaza, Laukona Street in Hanama’ulu, and Wilcox Memorial Hospital.
After participating in activities at the Kapa’a armory, a student can then catch the 5 p.m. bus at the Kapa’a New Park pavilion and get dropped off across Pono Kai Resort or Wailua Houselots Park or Wailua Homesteads Park.
Additional stops on this route can be pre-arranged, including Kapa’a Public Library, Kapa’a Neighborhood Center, Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital, St. Catherine Church, Kapahi Menehune Food Mart, Kapahi Park, the intersection of Kawaihau Road and Kahana Street, the intersection of Kawaihau Road and Malakia Street, Kojima Store, Pono Kai Resort, Kapa’a Big Save, Safeway, and Wailua Family Restaurant.
“We’re trying to address the issues that prevent youngsters from participating in after-school activities,” Carvalho said, “and transportation was definitely a big roadblock.”
He suggests that young people who need transportation to a program site, or their parents, call officials at The Kaua’i Bus, 241-6410, for a complete schedule.
While the expanded bus routes are designed to make it easy for middle- and high-school students to take part in after-school classes and activities, members of the general public are also welcome to take advantage of the increased service, added Carvalho.
Monthly bus passes for The Kaua’i Bus are $15 for unlimited rides.
In the near future, a youth-activities calendar showing a listing of all activities and classes offered through Malama Na ‘Opio will begin to appear regularly in The Garden Island newspaper.
For more information about the Malama Na ‘Opio program, please call the county’s recreation agency at 241-4460