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
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
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.”