Hana Youth Center executive director talks about his community values and the kids he wants to help.
March 15, 2007
For the last four years Keoki Kalani has served as the Hana Youth
Center's Executive Director. Recently I was fortunate enough to spend
several days working with him and the youth who attend the center each
day after school lets out. Near the end of my time there we talked
about the Youth Center, the Hana community and the Hana way of life:
MAUI TIME WEEKLY: Hana embraces a strong sense of community. Let's start by discussing your ideas of what makes up a community.
KEOKI KALANI: I guess my
idea of a perfect community would be one that practiced healthy
behaviors and had the resources to help those who needed change. A
community that had healthy beliefs and held positive standards would be
great. And community that supported all families in need as well as
supporting the school system would be very good as well.
Do you feel that the Hana community is unique in any way?
Hana is unique in that it supports many Hawaiian values. This is
visible in everyday life where families look out for one another. Many
live and practice aloha and try very hard to protect this lifestyle.
Hana has its own Aloha Week festivities and it is a community that is
culturally strong. I believe the people of Hana have a sense of
I understand that Hana Youth
Center has been open for nearly 21 years. Since you began working there
four years ago how have you seen it change?
I am certain that there have been changes with each directorship
along the way. Prior to starting at HYC I really wasn't that involved
with the center so I can only evaluate what I've done to try and
improve. I do appreciate hearing that the community is pleased with the
center and I feel privileged to be a part of this organization.
Can you describe some of these changes?
We are most fortunate to be a part of the County of Maui budget. I
believe there are nine youth centers currently in Maui County that
receive funding as well. Therefore, as not to take advantage of the
fact that a part of our operating expenses may be part of a budget
drawn from taxpayer's money, a big responsibility to make the most of
what is received and not waste anything as well as showing results is
important. HYC works with other organizations and agencies to develop
better programs as well. Receiving support is great, lending support to
others serves as an example for our youth.
How many kids attend HYC?
We currently have 136 members with an average of 25 youth attending daily.
How do you believe the Youth Center benefits the youth?
It's a safe place where youth can come and hang out versus getting
in trouble somewhere else. HYC offers a setting that is fun; free from
the influence of tobacco, drugs and violence. HYC supports positive
interactions; it reinforces positive Hawaiian values and encourages
youth to improve health, moral and social habits. Our mission statement
is "E kipaipai i na 'opio i na hana ku i ka pono mai keia manawa a mau
loa aku," which translates as "Inspiring youth to make positive
impressions that last a lifetime." HYC tries to make positive lasting
impressions that will hopefully build self-esteem and assist our youth
in making wise choices now and in the future.
Can you describe some of the successes that you've witnesses in your time with HYC?
We are still open! Other than that, I've seen members graduate, some
have gone on to college and some have begun careers. I've seen families
of members participate more in the community. I believe more successes
are yet to come.
How do you measure success?
Right now I think it is through participation and by feedback from
the community. While we are providing positive information,
reinforcement and reminders, I believe that it is not until later will
we see if everything kicks in. Maybe one day a former member will say
they were inspired by something that they experience at HYC.
Are there any failures that you would like to share?
I've heard where youth may have done something wrong at home and for
punishment they were restricted from coming to the center. It's
unfortunate that at times HYC is being used as the leverage to control
How has the Youth Center helped to integrate the community at large?
HYC along with a collaboration of others has encouraged family
strengthening in a program called Hana Pa`a where families are taken
camping and taught family strengthening skills. Within the `ohana,
families are able to bond, families bond with families, organizations
bond with organizations and it grows.
What would you consider to be the biggest challenge directly regarding the youth and their positive growth?
Motivation seems to be an ongoing challenge. It is so easy for youth
to pass up positive opportunities. To get youth to buy into something
that requires effort on their part, to broaden their prospective on
views and to build confidence are things we are trying to instill.
I was involved with your monthly event called Movie in the Park. Would you like to explain a little about how that works?
Three organizations have joined together in this effort. With `Ohana
Makamae, which is the Hana Family Resource Center and Hale Hulu Mamo,
Hana's Senior Center, we are able to provide a family strengthening
activity once a month that is affordable. The movie is selected and
voted based on values and it is shown for free. We also provide a
balanced dinner plate and other concession items for a reasonable cost,
which our attendees appreciate. Prior to the movie, a small forum is
available to either showcase maybe a film a youth created, have a short
entertainment segment or the sharing of concerns and happenings that
are going on at each of our organizations.
There is a lot of energy that is required to put this together and I
am grateful for my co-agencies because we would not be able to do it as
well by ourselves. Sometimes we make a small profit and sometimes we
don't. However, this teaches collaboration, teamwork and cooperation
and we have incorporated parts of this effort in our youth programming.
I just hope it sets an example for the future.
I understand that you and your coworkers organize field trips. Are there any in particular that you would like to share?
So as not to waste a whole day, I believe that for many in Hana,
Kahului trips are targeted to get what you need and return to Hana and
still have time in the day to do other things. We have created
quarterly field trips that encompass things that erase the rushed time
factor to return to Hana and we do things that are out of the "going to
the other side" norm. Participation in this is based on having a good
standing. We try to include things that are educational, cultural and
Trips normally begin very early. Breakfast could be either made by
the youth at a park watching the sun come up or maybe they'll practice
ordering at a sit-down breakfast. A visit to a museum, an art exhibit,
a hotel tour, MCC [Maui Community College], golf lessons, bowling or
cultural sites. Roads rarely traveled have been included, also.
Swimming seems to be necessary, whether it is at a pool, beach or `Iao
We also visit community members who may be in the hospital. A
current movie could be included as well. Parents are provided with our
jam-packed itinerary so as not to worry when we roll in close to
midnight. Our effort is to provide something memorable, something so
that they will say, "I learned something new."
Are there particular activities that the youth prefer over others?
Definitely. However, it is equally important for youth to learn from
the programs that promote responsibility as well. Sometimes we have
repackaged the programs so that they appear more appealing. On the
other hand, we used to have monthly dances that were popular but
working towards our detriment.
We were promoting a nightclub mind-set which constantly required
policing and was burning us out. We turned the activity around by
making them quarterly and creating youth themes. Youth were encouraged
to be youth and not little adults with attitudes. We created activity
stations, a photo booth, group games and contests. Now we don't worry
as much because everyone wants to participate inside as compared to
hanging out outside and getting into trouble. Our goal is to offer
activities that the youth will take advantage of and also be rewarding
for them and staff alike.
Are you content with the youth's
participation with the community? Do you believe that the Youth Center
has helped in rendering a better idea of what it means to be a part of
Being content can make you complacent and we can always improve.
Youth involvement in a monthly anti-drug rally was beginning to
dwindle. Kids couldn't relate how their participation helped any. So
arrangements were made for individuals from the community who were in
recovery to speak to the youth. Our members were able to hear first
hand from an aunty or uncle, a big cousin, how their participation
inspired them and reminded them to stay clean. These speakers have
helped our youth in that even if there are challenges within the home,
youth know that they have the power to make a healthy choice for
What is the annual shoe donation to the HYC?
Several years ago I met a couple who were visiting Hana, after
touring our center they asked if the youth would appreciate a donation
of shoes from their company: onlineshoes.com. An agreement was formed
and this has been the fourth year HYC has been able to distribute shoes
to the membership and to our senior center. Our friends at
onlineshoes.com believed in what we were doing and we are most
grateful. This past year we put together a slide show set to music,
which was sent to them and they shared it with their employees. I hope
it provided that tingly feeling in their na`au [gut] that their shoes
have given our youth members.
Does the community seem appreciative?
This Seattle-based company has embraced our community and they have
touched our lives. Hopefully we have shown appreciation by sharing with
them what we have done as well. Maybe one day our youth may have the
means to help others less fortunate. They definitely see a positive
Are there any major changes that you foresee taking place within the Hana community that would directly affect the HYC?
The cost of living in Hana continues to soar. Grants seem more
complicated as well. It is our hope one day to have an endowment where
we could operate from the interest and not have to spend as much time
searching for operating funds. On another note, the school system
continues to affect the center. This is our first year in a year-round
schedule. Hana School also has an optional Friday program which affects
parents and youth as well. Are the youth benefiting from it? Time will
What makes you most proud?
I was surprised this past Aloha Week by being bestowed the Hana
community's Tiny Malaikini Mea Kokua Award. Previous recipients have
inspired me from when I was little. I hope I can do the same for our
youth today. MTW
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