Investing in our children

LIHUE — Vonn Ramos believes we are all seed planters.

“I hope the seeds we plant will become productive and successful adults,” he said.

Ramos will take that hope into his new role as executive director of Hale Opio, which is dedicated to improving the quality of life for keiki through education, prevention diversion and treatment programs.

The 40-year-old will begin his tenure Monday. He brings with him 13 years of experience as a therapist and counselor.

“I’ve seen kids who are resilient and who have become law-abiding adults,” he said. “That’s the best we can ask for.”

Ramos, born and raised on Kauai, lives in Hanamaulu. He admits this new role will come with challenges.

“This is higher administrative work,” he said. “But there’s a lot of support from the board, and knowing that there was support and training, I felt comfortable taking the position.”

LaVerne Bishop, current executive director, met Ramos in 2010.

“He was always professional, including being prepared to report on program outcomes — a core element of Hale Opio practice,” she said.

Bishop, who has been with Hale Opio for 40 years, will serve as the managing director. After guiding Ramos through the transition, she plans to continue working on programs.

“I will continue to do so while enjoying my 94-year-old mother, who recently moved to Kauai from New Jersey, and engage in all the things we say we’re going to do when our schedule gets less hectic,” she said.

Bill Fernandez, who serves on the Hale Opio board, is confident Ramos will do well.

“LaVerne will be here for several months and will mentor him,” he said.

Finding a person to continue her legacy was a challenge, said Mark Hubbard, secretary of Hale Opio.

“LaVerne has a long history with the organization. We really value that experience and we need someone who can continue her work,” he said.

Hubbard believes Ramos has those qualifications.

“The challenge is finding someone of the caliber of executive director on the island of Kauai,” he said. “We looked for quite a while.”

Hubbard and Fernandez say Ramos’ ties to the community will benefit the organization.

“He’s a local boy, which is really important,” Fernandez said.

An issue Hale Opio is seeking to resolve is the number of Native Hawaiian children who run into trouble with the law, he said.

“Ramos has worked with the Native Hawaiian community quite a bit, and he’s an important addition because of that,” Fernandez said.

Ramos was the clinical supervisor for Hina Mauka, clinical lead for Kauai Drug Court and program administrator for Parents and Children Together. He said he feels connected to Hale Opio.

“The island is invested, and the people are invested, so it’s a huge responsibility,” he said. “But, being born and raised here, I have roots here. It ties me even more to the mission, and I feel at home.”

Justin Kollar, prosecuting attorney and board member, said Ramos is a great addition to Hale Opio.

“Vonn is an extremely humble, hard working and intelligent individual,” he said. “We’re looking forward to working alongside him for many years to come in our shared mission of making a safer and healthier Kauai for all our keiki.”

Ramos hopes to expand the organization’s programs, in addition to continuing its legacy.

“I want to see where the service gaps are. I’m sure we can provide more to the community,” he said.

Using his background in family therapy, Ramos hopes to offer family services.

“If you support the family, kids will have a better environment and more opportunity to grow,” he said.

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