Learning how to make a difference, part 2

Last week, I wrote about Hale ‘Opio Kauai (HOK) and some of the new programs they offer now. This week, I’ll cover more of them, and introduce the new community programs director.

I’ll start with the “Healthy Teen Dating Relationships” Program, because an upcoming class will be beginning Sept. 18. The last day for registration is Friday, Sept. 11.

In this class, you will learn how to build a positive close relationship with someone. Not everyone learns it at home, and schools don’t teach it. People get together not just to have someone to be with, but to have someone they enjoy being with, someone who brings out the best in them. There are skills a person can learn to help them have a good personal relationship with someone without sacrificing what they want in a relationship.

Negotiation is a fancy word for having a discussion that results in an agreement about something. Both sides treat the other respectfully, and the goal is a win–win solution.

So learning to feel comfortable about asking that your needs are met is very important in negotiating an agreement. It’s also just as important to develop good listening skills. You’re not really listening if a person is speaking and you’re thinking about something else, or about what you’re going to say next. Give the person your full attention.

Sometimes relationships start out OK, but go sour. Instead of the relationship being based on equality, there may be an imbalance of power. One person believes that his/her choices should be the ones for both you. That person may try to convince you to do it his/ her way by trying to make you look bad, or may call you dumb. This is a beginning sign of dating violence. Verbal abuse and emotional abuse are still violence against a person. Often when one person wants to leave the relationship the other gets physically violent too. The dominant person begins to isolate the other person from his/ her family and friends. Get help!

You’ll learn where you can go to get help when it is needed. Maybe you know of someone who is already in trouble in a relationship. Bring them, or take notes for them. Often all it takes is one other person to stand up to the bully to back them down.

This class is five consecutive Fridays, beginning Sept. 18 and 25, and Oct. 2, 9 and 16. It is at the Hale Opio Building Art room, which is downstairs to the right of the main building as you face it on 2959 Umi St. in Lihue.

As an incentive, the first 10 youth who sign up and attend the class will receive a gift. If all 10 classes are attended there is another gift. But the real gift is what you can bring to a relationship, or to your friends in relationships. Class size is limited to 12 high school students. Healthy snacks will be provided. Sign up by Sept. 11. This one requires parental permission, so call Mary Ann Ornellas at 651-0584 for the forms and more information.

On May 26, of this year Kerith Edwards joined the HOK staff as the community programs director. She was previously the director of the English Department at Island School, and also taught at KCC part time. She moved to the Big Island and recently completed her master’s degree in counseling and psychology. While she was there she also taught at HCC. She lives with her partner and his two sons ages 13 and 15.

When I asked her why she wanted to work at HOK she stated that she loves to “establish relationships with people to effect change.” She believes that she can make a difference with people at a personal level.

She is a therapist, so she starts getting to know a person. Often a person knows what kind of help they need, or the therapist can determine it. She will take them wherever they are at, and work from there. Therapists don’t try to label people as having one kind of problem or another. They look to see what kind of education or skills are needed to help a person live a more effective and happier life. Then she would suggest for them to take one of Hale Opio’s programs to learn those skills.

Many programs are about building good relationships, such as the one above. And making a difference, which was explained last week. There is also the “Mother-Daughter Circle” which is an eight week program bringing mothers and daughters together to examine strengthen, and celebrate their communication and relationships.

“Y.E.S” Hawaii Youth Empowerment and Success” is dedicated to helping foster youth create positive outcomes for themselves, by learning how to make good decisions. They learn independent living skills. Those are practical skills such as learning how to cook, do laundry, cleaning, shopping, balancing a checking account, learning how to have fun, and more. They learn how to advocate (support and speak up) for themselves and other foster youth.

There is also practical life training. “First Jobs Academy” provides enhanced mnagement training to employers who agree to be “business mentors” to youth trained in work readiness and independent living skills. Both employer and youth benefit by improved attitudes, work habits, retention, and six months of coaching. And then you have something to put down on your resume!

The Hawaii Youth Opportunities Initiative helps youth who age out of the foster care program. At 18, very few people are able to start out alone. It provides access to education, employment, health care, housing, permanent family relationships and community connections.

“Street Smart” is a researched-based class for girls to prevent HIV/AIDS and STIs in Asian and Pacific Island young people whose behaviors place them at risk. Research shows that Street Smart graduate significantly reduce their substance use and number of incidents of unprotected sex.

“Positive Action” is an evidence-based character development program proven in Hawaii to significantly reduce drinking, improve grades, decrease bullying and give other positive results.

There are also diversion programs. When youth have broken the law, they go to these educational programs as an alternative to going to Family Court. In Kauai Teen Court, they admit their mistakes, take classes, write letters, or whatever a trained jury of their peers determines would help them learn to make better choices. They will not have a record if they complete their requirements.

“The Youth Level of Service Case Management Inventory” is used to assess the risk of reoffending and identify areas of need addressed in a family driven plan of service, which is case managed.

“Family Conferencing” is for youthful offenders selected by the Juvenile Client and Family Services of the Fifth Judicial Circuit who meet with their victims and make a plan to restore the harm that they created. The victim also has an opportunity to express how they felt, and what they need at present. Both sides may have family and a friend to be with them.

“Victim Impact Classes” are court-ordered classes designed to provide juveniles on probation with an opportunity to accept responsibility for their harmful actions, and develop an understanding of the impact their crime had on the victim, the victim’s family, friends, and greater community emotionally, physically, psychologically and financially.

All these programs are in addition to the “Therapeutic Family Homes, Transitional Family Home Programs for foster youth , and the Emergency Shelter Services/Therapeutic Crisis Home for children who must have a safe place to live immediately.

You can see that many levels of service and education are offered to our youth on Kauai from HOK. It’s great to make a difference in the lives of a child, because the results of that may continue for a very long time, or reach a large group of people. Children are the best investment we can make for our future. Mentor someone and find out how great it makes you feel to pass your knowledge on. Kids do this all the time for younger kids, and occasionally their elders. Share the grace!


Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at aatkinson@haleopio.org

Info: www.haleopio.org.


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