NUKOLI‘I — More than a year ago, a 19-year-old boy took his life. Why?
About 250 students — mostly student-athletes from the three public high schools — listened as Frank And Brenda Marrero of California told them how the use of steroids eventually led to their son Efrain’s death.
“This year, our focus is on student-athletes,” said Bill Arakaki, one of the organizers for the annual summit that addresses drug issues with young adults in the community.
Jeffrey Mueller, a producer, said the community of Hawai‘i changes and making the right choices is important for young people .
“Last year, Hawai‘i’s No. 1 problem was drugs,” he said. “This year, that number has been reduced, but now we have a problem with excessive drinking, teen pregnancies and depression.”
Student-athletes were selected to hear the messages of “No Ice in Paradise,” making the right choices and leadership lessons because they serve as role models, Mueller said.
“When a new member comes into the team, he doesn’t follow people who make a lot of mistakes,” Mueller said. “As a returning member of the team, more experienced members looks after the new members to keep them on track. You, as student-athletes, are leaders.”
Previously, Arakaki’s committee organized summits dealing with drug education and awareness. This year’s presentation focused on students’ role as leaders in the community, evident in the summit’s theme — “Sports Leadership for a Safe and Drug Free Community.”
The students, their advisors, teachers and representatives from the county converged at the Hilton Kaua‘i Beach Resort, where the Marreros and Mueller imparted their message, with the help of entertainer Marty Dredd.
“They’re really good students,” Brenda Marrero said following their presentation. “They didn’t have to, but every single one of them came up and gave us a hug. That means something.”
Members of the schools’ student councils and other campus leaders joined the athletes.
Randall Francisco, president of the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce, led one of three break out sessions for the summit.
“My topic is leadership,” Francisco said. “But they’re not going to hear me, they’re going to work and learn. This is a workshop.”
The summit comes on the heels of the successful Eastside Family Summit, “Celebrating Families,” where families could see first-hand the many resources available for parents and children.
The programs are linked through the county’s and state’s efforts in creating a safe and drug-free community.
“Some of the students out there have problems,” Arakaki said. “We just want them to know they have support groups they can turn to.”
Arakaki noted that several members of their steering committee was absent from the Friday summit because they were on O‘ahu accepting an award for the success of these programs.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or firstname.lastname@example.org.