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by Anil Kunnel, staff writer


The Department of Education, school administrators, and several community organizations around the island are coming up with ways to keep teenagers off the street and away from trouble when they aren’t in school. HPU students can also help by volunteering to be a mentor at one of the following organizations.

Breakthroughs for Youth at Risk, a worldwide non-profit organization, helps teens to face the obstacles in their lives, change their attitudes, and make good decisions.

“We want to keep youth thinking about what else they can do to make [their lives] work,” said Sharon Lester, president of Breakthroughs’ board of directors.

Breakthroughs helps young people learn to manage their anger, avoid trouble, and finish school. It is in its fifth year working with students at several O‘ahu high schools. The organization, which has its office on Alaloa Street, has two basic programs: a one-week camp for teenagers, and a series of seven day workshops for local students, with a nine-month follow-through program.

Marimed Foundation, which has offices on O‘ahu and the Big Island, is a Hawai‘i-based public charity that uses activities on and around the ocean to “help Hawai‘i’s young men make the often stormy passage through adolescence,” according to the foundation’s Web page. Most youth enrolled in the program are referred directly by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division of the Hawai‘i State Department of Health. The Kailana Program has activities which address males from 14 to 18, “who face difficult emotional challenges requiring something more structured and restrictive than school- or home-based services,” noted its Web site.

The young adults work on their own ship, the Makani Olu, which means “Gracious Wind.” According to its Web site, there, the teens can combine “the discipline of boat building, sailing, canoe paddling, and shipboard living with more traditional therapy and family counseling.”

Not every high school student deals with such dramatic issues. Some just want to spend their time doing something constructive. The YMCA, whose office is located on Pali Highway, offers several after-school activities, from sports to educational and career support. Young people can join events like the dance class, swimming and water activities, or go on youth camping trips.

For the creative minds, Youth Speaks Hawai‘i offers several free after school writing and performance workshops. With educational concepts, mentoring programs, and cooperative learning, Youth Speaks encourages active literacy, honest writing, and critical thought. The San Francisco-based foundation also organizes open mic slams throughout the nation, including the Hawaiian Poetry Slam that takes place every third Saturday at the ARTS at Marks Garage, on Nu‘uanu Avenue.

All these organizations try to keep troubled teenagers focused on attainable goals in life. They learn not only to listen, but also to identify their real needs. In 2004, 86 percent of the participants completed the nine-month Breakthrough workshop.

“ The success rate is excellent,” said Lester. “We want them to learn to go beyond their fears.”

Interested in becoming a mentor?

Visit the following Web sites for more information:

www.ymcahonolulu.org www.youthspeakshawaii.org



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