Students entering middle school get friends’ help

A program that started as a medical school project celebrated its 15th anniversary yesterday.

Currently labeled the Student Transition Convention, more than 800 students who will be entering middle school in the fall gathered at the convention hall for a day-long program geared to make the students aware of what is in store for them at middle school.

Strains of music from the Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School band greeted students who arrived via a fleet of buses and welcomed by cadets from the Waimea High School Jr. ROTC program as well as coordinators from the event host, Adult Friends for Youth.

“The first year we had the program, it was a pilot project for just Honolulu alone,” said Sid Rosen, founder of the AFY as well as its president and CEO. “Since then, the program has expanded to all islands and has undergone changes to meet the needs of students making the transition from elementary school to middle school.”

One of the things that hasn’t changed is the appearance of entertainer Frank DeLima who waited for his cue backstage. DeLima has been helping students make the transition to middle school since the program started on Kaua‘i 15 years ago.

DeLima still anchors the program that has grown to include the appearance of Pilialoha Gaison, the reigning Miss Hawai‘i, and Jordan Segundo, a popular entertainer who was also scheduled to deliver one of the keynote speeches.

Also on the agenda, panelists made up of students in middle school, Kaua‘i Mayor Bryan Baptiste and Kaua‘i Complex Area Superintendant Daniel Hamada offered their remarks to the incoming middle school students.

Another of the program traditions is the Alexander & Baldwin Foundation, Rosen said.

“They were with us when we first came to Kaua‘i. They supported us then, and they continue to support us, today,” Rosen said. “Without them, there might not be a program on Kaua‘i.”

Rosen said the transition program is also supported by Gear Up Hawai‘i, a federal program which supports higher education, and the AFY.

Rosen said Adult Friends for Youth, with offices located on O‘ahu, targets high-risk adolescents and young adults.

AFY is the only organization in the nation that works with groups as a whole versus individuals within the group, Rosen said.

Alcohol, drugs and gang-related issues are some of the areas AFY works in and offers programs through youth services through its O‘ahu offices.

Schools participating in the yesterday’s convention include ‘Ele‘ele School, Hanalei, Kahili Adventist, Kalaheo, Kapa‘a Elementary, Kekaha, King Kaumuali‘i, Koloa, St. Theresa, Waimea Canyon Elementary and Wilcox.

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