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by Monica Karlstein, staff writer

Breakthroughs is volunteer based and works with different youth development programs. Clinton Terrell, the executive director, worked with this particular class of 15 Castle High School students, working with volunteer Jason Aguilar, a practicum student from HPU’s psychology program, and Castle H.S. teacher Donna Okita.

“ Breakthroughs is a great community program,” said Howard Markowitz, assistant professor of psychology at HPU and responsible for scheduling HPU volunteers to work with Breakthroughs. “I am happy to support it any way I can, Markowitz continued. “Our students in the Psychology Practicum course have been involved with Breakthroughs for the past few years.” Breakthroughs work is funded mostly by private donations. The group’s activities are arranged by agreements between teachers, principals, and Breakthroughs. At this time, the organization has no formal connection to Hawai‘i’s Department of Education. However, Terrell is working with the Windward District Office to develop an agreement so he can work regularly with more windward students.

The in-class work at Castle High School involves public service announcements about drugs, tobacco, and alcohol that will be filmed and broadcast by Olelo Community Television. Okita and Terrell think it’s good to kill two birds with one stone. The teens get to know how to prepare media material typical of what an advertising or public relations agency would produce, and at the same time they are made aware of the negative aspects of drugs.

“ What I am trying to teach my students in this class,” said Okita, “is that there are a lot of different careers out in the world, and this is one option that they can think about.”

Breakthroughs also offers a one-week camp where the purpose of the exercises, both physical and psychological, is to change the teens’ attitude. During camp the teenagers have to face their problems and work with others who share similar experiences to find ways to handle their situations. Terrell, volunteers from community support programs such as HPU’s psychology and social work classes, and sometimes parents are there to support the teens. After the intensive camp, teens are offered “aftercare,” which includes adult mentoring to help them to continue changing their attitudes and lifestyles, Terrell explained.

“ Society today is getting more and more competitive, and it might be hard for young people to always get through life’s difficulties,” said Terrell. He established successful Breakthroughs in Europe and on the mainland before he came to Hawai‘i in 1994.

Terrell said that the purpose is, not to change teens’ lives, but to give them the opportunity to see that they have choices.

Brooke Mokuahi, a student in Okita’s class, put Breakthroughs’ work into words: “I like it because they let us know what happens when we make wrong decisions.”

Okita said that many of the students in the school have parents in jail or who are affected by alcohol or drugs, and that these students are rarely supported by their families. She works with Breakthroughs because kids need to know that there are people who actually are willing to help them if they are willing to change.

Many teens who have gone through a program with Breakthroughs have their own families, a good education, and a good job, Terrell said, and recounted that sometimes at the supermarket, for example, he runs into people he worked with 10 years ago and they usuallty thank him.

Okita agreed and said that it’s rewarding later on when she sees people who completed the Breakthroughs program who are trying to be successful.

Both Terrell and Okita believe in the class they are working with. Okita speculated on the teens’ future: “I believe that most of the kids that you saw in my class today, will be working. Some will start families of their own. I also see a few students going on to a community college or trade school.”

Contact Information:

Executive Director: Clinton Terrell
Breakthroughs Office: 46-022 Alaloa St., Suite 216, Kane‘ohe, HI 96744
Phone: 808-247-4375
Cell: 808-372-4752
Fax: 808-247-4631
E-mail: breakthroughs@hawaiiantel.net




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