KALAHEO — Theresa Koki, one of the county’s community-response specialists, said that Michael Castillo-Ramos and his friends used to hang out in parking lots with their boom boxes.
Enter Susan Cox, the coordinator at the Koloa Neighborhood Center. Cox, upon learning of the plight of the teens who needed a place to go, invited them to the neighborhood center, where they’ve become regulars.
“They come every day around 3:45 or so, and sometimes, they’re here until about 7 p.m.,” Cox said of members of the Reckless Breakers, who provided some of the entertainment at the opening of Teen Edge activities center at the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center last week.
The Teen Edge activities center provides a place where youngsters from 11 to 19 years of age can gather after school lets out Monday through Friday.
Shana Oyama, the youth activities coordinator at Kalaheo Neighborhood Center, said the facility is open from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. weekdays for youth.
But, beyond just a place that sits under a majestic mural created by Jamie Reyes of the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii, and his girlfriend Silvana Paredes, the Teen Edge activities center is the Kalaheo gathering place of a network of after-school activities being hosted by the leaders at the neighborhood centers as a way officials in the county’s Offices of Community Assistance can provide students with things to do.
That program is “Malama Na ‘Opio,” or “taking care of the youngsters.”
Activities include everything from doing homework to receiving instruction in hula, Tahitian dance and drumming, ‘ukulele, kenpo, kajukenbo, and swimming.
The Teen Edge activities center, then, becomes part of the Westside offerings of programs, most of them located in the different neighborhood centers.
Connecting to the activities is done through The Kaua’i Bus, which arrived with busloads of chaperoned youngsters from the Waimea Neighborhood Center, the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii Waimea Clubhouse, and the Koloa Neighborhood Center.
“We are committed to having something for you to do,” Kaua’i Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste told the audience of students. “Now, you need to participate, because only through your participation and spreading the word will the program be successful.
“The bus is there for you to get around and drop you off at the different activities,” Baptiste said. “Tell your friends.”
Bernard Carvalho, director of the Offices of Community Assistance, said they hope to spread this around the island, and there are many hands that made last week’s opening become reality.
Heading the list is the county’s anti-drug coordinator, Roy Nishida, who was able to connect with U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawai’i, and obtain the funds necessary to make the Teen Edge activities center a reality.
Work for the student facility had been taking place through-out the day Wednesday, in preparation for Thursday’s celebration.
The pool table had just arrived.
Reyes, Paredes, and Oyama were working on completing the mural as the county’s 12 and under girls’ basketball league games were taking place in the gym.
People interested in the various programs can contact one of the four Westside neighborhood centers, or the county’s OCA Recreation Agency, 241-4460.
For information and times on The Kaua’i Bus after-school public routes, people can contact The Kaua’i Bus office at 241-6410.
- Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or firstname.lastname@example.org