LIHUE — Shey Furgeson is the first successful graduate of the Kauai Veterans Court that started back in November 2017.
“There was a lot of pressure,” Judge Randal Valenciano said. “You cannot start a program with one, and not succeed. We can’t end a program before we even start.”
Furgeson was joined by graduates of the 33rd Kauai Drug Court, including Ivan Gere, Jourdan Kaupu-Kaneholani, and Jessie Sablan in having their cases dismissed following the successful completion of their respective programs, Friday before a courtroom filled with family, supporters, and friends.
“This is the first time since the war that I feel part of a team again,” Furgeson said. “I joined the Army right after graduation from Kapaa High School and was deployed to where I was exposed to a heavy share of combat. I was diagnosed with PTSD and was addicted to drugs and rough behavior.”
But through the efforts of the Kauai Veterans Court, and it’s Veteran Court mentor Evan Price, Furgeson returned to the right path.
“I’m stronger today, and I love life,” said Sablan, a Drug Court graduate. “I wouldn’t trade this for anything, and I want to thank The Salvation Army for the tools I needed to get here.”
The road to recovery is not easy, said Kaupu-Kaneholani, another of the Drug Court graduates.
“I was in the darkest place a person could be,” the mother of two said. “My boyfriend left us for another woman after our second child. I felt unloved and did drugs. You know something is wrong, but you continue. I was arrested, and while in jail, my mother who was my inspiration passed away.”
Mayor Derek Kawakami said he reflects on words and passages each day before setting off to the office.
“‘It takes a village to raise a child,’” Kawakami said. “This was just one of several phrases I thought about, today. It takes a village for most things in life. You have a village — each and everyone here in the courtroom cares and loves you. You have a village, and when times are tight, reach out.”
Kawakami said the Mayor’s Office wants to become more involved with the journey of recovery, and as a demonstration, offered lunch with the graduates so he could get to know each person better. He also wants more people involved in the service projects the candidates are involved in.
Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald flew in for the first Kauai Veterans Court graduation.
“These are good people — Shey Furgeson, the first Veteran Court graduate, Ivan Gere, Jessie Sablan, and Jourdan Kaupu-Kaneholani of the 33rd Drug Court — who are trying to get back on the right path,” Reckentwald said. “The Kauai Veteran Court is new and helps veterans who have no access to benefits they have earned. We have people like Evan Price who want to help.”
Reckentwald said these specialty courts will continue to help people, with the judicial system recently adding a new family court judge, and setting its sights on the truancy problem.
“There are lots of people on the island who need help,” Valenciano said. “When we started the Kauai Veterans Court, we had the task of starting with no additional staff or resources. Evan Price bought in and was the only mentor.
“We have many veterans, and only some are coming forward. Kauai Veterans Court is offered to all veterans who need help.”
“We can rely on others to help change the course,” Valenciano said. “For these people, the course they were on was of destruction. The course ahead is one of sunshine.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: The spelling of Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald’s name has been corrected in this story.