As a child, at the start of a new school year I always felt excited and a little scared. Would I like my teacher? Would my friends still like me? Would I get good grades?
Fast forward to today. While most young people probably have the same excitement and concerns, some also feel disengaged from school. Others may not feel safe. Still others may engage in risky behaviors, even at a young age.
As a community, we talk about wanting the best for our young people. Yet they face many temptations and challenges most of us didn’t experience as children. Many are insufficiently prepared for college or jobs. What’s the solution?
A community-driven initiative called Keiki to Career Kaua‘i has emerged, bringing together leaders representing every stage in a young person’s development from birth to the time they leave college and enter the workforce. This long-term initiative is based on the concept of collective impact, which means that by working together with aligned goals and ways to measure success we can achieve more significant outcomes.
The mission of the initiative is to unite the community in and developing Kaua‘i’s young people from keiki to career they are ready to learn and ready for life. The vision of an island community where Kaua‘i’s keiki through young adults are healthy, competent, confident and caring.
The solutions to achieve this vision won’t come in one or two years. Leaders across the island will have to maintain a long-term focus and a sustained commitment to youth development.
Who are these leaders? They are parents and people just like you. More than 40 are participating in Keiki to Career planning and they represent parents, social services, health care, youth organizations, workforce development, business and all levels of education.
They are working collaboratively on an action plan, scheduled for completion in December. The plan will launch the initiative with four areas of focus for the next three years:
• Increase parent and family engagement in the development of their children.
• Ensure readiness for kindergarten, starting at birth.
• Build resilience and life skills among children, youth and young adults.
• Ensure successful transition from high school to college or work.
Already there are exciting transformations taking place within the Department of Education on Kaua‘i and at Kaua‘i Community College. Education leaders are transforming teaching and the curriculum to be more relevant to students and how they learn. Keiki to Career builds on the great work being done, taking a holistic approach that emphasizes not just academics but also the “soft skills” young people need, such as communication, decision making, responsibility, ethics, teamwork, adaptability, conflict resolution and community service.
Together, these skills help a young person be ready for life. Kaua‘i Planning and Action Alliance (KPAA) serves as the backbone organization for this exciting new initiative, convening groups and coordinating activities. Funding to date has come from the Department of Education-Kaua‘i Complex Area, County of Kaua‘i and The Learning Coalition.
To learn more about Keiki to Career, visit KPAA’s website www.kauainetwork.org/programs/keiki-to-career-kauai or call Diane Zachary at 632-2005.
• Diane Zachary is president and CEO of the Kaua‘i Planning and Action Alliance.