We at Hale ‘Opio Kauai, Inc. would like to introduce to the community Vonn Ramos, our new executive director. Mr. Ramos, born and raised on Kauai and a graduate of Kauai High School, has lived on Kauai for more than 30 years. With master’s degrees in marriage and family therapy and human resources and past professional experience with organizations such as The Mokihana Project, Hawaii Behavioral Health, PACT (Parents and Children Together), Hina Mauka Teen C.A.R.E., and Kaua’i Drug Court, Vonn was the ideal candidate to lead Hale ‘Opio Kauai into its next chapter.
Esther: Please tell us about your past professional experience that influenced your decision to accept the position of executive director at Hale ‘Opio Kauai.
Vonn: My past work experience continued to raise me into various leadership positions. As a clinical supervisor at Hina Mauka Teen C.A.R.E. for 10 years and assistant program director for PACT for two years, it seemed like the next progression on my career goals.
Esther: What would you say is your management style?
Vonn: I believe good management should be visionary, participatory and democratic. By that I mean visionaries move people toward a new set of shared dreams. Leaders are able to articulate where a group is going. Participatory emphasizes the importance of team work by connecting people to each other. Democratic — draws on people’s knowledge and skills. This creates a group commitment to the resulting goals.
I have also adopted from Kouzes and Posner’s Leadership Challenge the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. Briefly stated, they are Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act and Encourage the Heart. My professional motto comes from an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”
Esther: Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i offers many programs to the general public on Kauai. Could you please tell us about some of the programs and how they contribute to the well-being of our community?
Vonn: In addition to our treatment family homes and emergency shelter programs for young people, we have ‘IHI, “with reverence and respect,” a program for all current and former foster youth ages 12 through 27. Individual and group activities, including resource caregivers help young people attain independent living skills and higher education goals through supportive case management.
First Jobs Academy provides training to both youth and employers: youth trained in work readiness and independent living skills and employers trained to be business mentors.
Our cultural arts program, Ke Kahua O Ka Malamalama, offers youth the opportunity to learn and practice Hawaiian arts, cultural traditions and values taught by selected kupuna to honor and perpetuate Hawaiian history and cultural traditions. Teen Court Kaua’i diverts first-time misdemeanor and status-offending youth ages 10 to 18 to a program where they are sanctioned by juries of their peers and given opportunities for additional education and leadership. We have many more programs and I understand they will be featured at a later date in this column.
Esther: As its new executive director, what do you see in the future for Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i, Inc?
Vonn: Hale ‘Opio’s mission is dedicated to improving young people’s quality of life, enhancing a sense of belonging, increasing self-awareness and strengthening `ohana by providing residential and community programs for education, prevention, court diversion and treatment. The various programs I mentioned all contribute to our mission.
Our core values and guiding principles include youth, families, service providers and the community. In all our diversity on Kauai, together we seek to ensure all young people have a sense of place and belonging so they can grow and thrive. Client centered and youth-driven is our central tenant.
By demonstrating our profound respect for young people and their aspirations for their own lives, we help them develop their own sense of responsibility and accountability.
Helping our youth to develop perseverance in the face of modern challenges and to guide their path with hope and compassion works toward a brighter future for not only our youth but for our entire community.
Our goals for the next few years include an ongoing quality improvement process for program review and a priority plan for expanded programs. Adding strategic partners and donors to our community of support, reviewing and reorganizing our staff structure to optimize quality services and utilize up-to-date technology to support organizational activities are goals we established at our recently held strategic planning session.
Esther: Leading a nonprofit organization, what is your strategy to obtain funding from a potentially shrinking pool of government, public and private funding?
Vonn: First, we must continue to strengthen our established relationships with current supporters. In addition, partnering with local businesses and entrepreneurs to invest their time, talent and treasures and to explore entrepreneurship ventures will help us to stay relevant and competitive in the future.
By being aware of current issues and finding effective and innovative ways to meet the needs of the community, Hale ‘Opio will stay engaged and effective.
Esther: What past professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
Vonn: Being trusted to be the new executive director of Hale ‘Opio Kauai, Inc. To serve in a leadership capacity to bring continued kokua to our community on Kauai. For me, it’s an honor and blessing to be given this great opportunity.
Esther Solomon is Kauai Teen Court manager for Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i. Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i 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 Esther Solomon at firstname.lastname@example.org For more information about Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i, please go to www.haleopio.org.