LIHUE — For Annaleah Atkinson, what started as a way to educate Kauai teenagers became a decade-long passion project.
“We have so many resources for facts and statistics and I wanted to make them available to the community,” Atkinson said. “That was important to me.”
Atkinson, who worked as the Kauai Teen Court manager for Hale Opio, began writing the weekly “In Your Corner” column in The Garden Island Newspaper in 2004.
“With Teen Court, we found out parents knew very little about the law when it came to their teenagers and certainly kids had no clue (about the law),” said LaVerne Bishop, former executive director of Hale Opio. “They’d get in a car, go to the first evening movie at 7 p.m. and stop at 7-11 on the way home, after 10 p.m. They were getting detained for curfew violation.”
So Atkinson started writing columns in TGI in hopes teens and parents would become more educated about the laws that affect them.
“They needed more information about what the laws are that are particularly to young people. It’s about teaching what the law is so you can be held accountable rather than not know what the laws are,” Bishop said. “It sort of snowballed from there.”
Since then, Atkinson has been writing columns dealing with health and wellness off and on for 14 years.
Topics included ways to honor mothers on Mother’s Day, the importance of resolving conflicts with empathy, anti-bullying strategies, mentorship and the benefits of reading.
For Atkinson, columns that stand out to her include the one regarding the rights of the child and the annual Happy Birthday America write-up.
On Feb. 13, she decided to step down from writing the column, saying added responsibilities were piling up.
“Her absence will leave a huge void,” said Vonn Ramos, executive director of Hale Opio.”Her work will be greatly missed and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading her weekly articles.”
Esther Solomon, current Teen Court Program manager, will be taking over Atkinson’s column, Ramos said.
Solomon’s first column in TGI is scheduled for Feb. 22.
“We are so grateful for the continued platform provide to Hale Opio Kauai to provide the Kauai community with valuable viewpoints and information,” Ramos said.
Bishop, who has known Atkinson since 2003, said her column will be missed.
“She is a competent, self-actualized woman who really takes being a global citizen seriously,” she said. “She has such a positive regard for people and so much love. She’s a terrific role model for all of us.”
Bishop hopes this is not the last Kauai residents will hear from Atkinson.
“She’s a treasure and we love her,” she said. “She’s gone on other directions in the past, and we hope this is just another brief hiatus.”
Atkinson said the most rewarding part about writing In Your Corner is spreading the message of kindness during times of conflict.
“In all the years, what is nearest and dearest to me is teaching people how to be nice to each other,” she said. “There’s no excuse not to be kind. At the end of the day, you might feel cool for five minutes, but when your conscious is pounding you in the head, you no longer feel good.”