Where to start??
Lets start from the beginning!!
This young man started our summer educational programs at age 5. He had not been able to attend school due to his behavior issues and was definitely on the track to fall through the cracks of our society. The first year of camp he only made it for the Adventure's Abound Day camp which was 10 days. He wasn't accepted into the sleepover portion due to his behavior.
We worked with him and his parents and he came back the second year, made it all the way through the entire 3 - weeks. Yes, he was a struggle and tested everyone's patiences. He was constantly be timed out and having the "think about his behavior". This boy was actually the creator of our time out chair at the age of 6.
As Cliff always says, "no one left behind"! He never gives up on these children. He guides them and works with them on a level unseen by most.
Year after year, "oh no, not Kris again" ... lol!! What a handful he was. Still struggling in school and not making friends easily, he kept attending and moving forward with skills and ways to handle himself.
Many might not even know, but Kris is actually one of the reasons we created the jr. leader program in the first place. When he grew to the age of 8 we would no long accept children until age 13 in our teen mentoring program.
Cliff, being an educator and specializing in the middle school age groups for at risk youth (and Hawaiian culture), he came to me and said, "we can't just let Kris go for this many years, we will lose the process made". So, we created a jr. leader program that allowed the children to learn to become leaders of themselves as they entered the higher grades.
This pilot program was one I was not prepared for. It is the hardest ages and definitely the most important for transition between childhood and teen years... so we did it. The first year we caught the eye of Hewlett Packard. This lead to their "Drive to Success" award given to us along with an award of over $32,000. to keep it running.
As Kris grew into the jr. leader program and learned the new skills which would eventually take him into our teen mentoring program, it was definitely not a smooth transition. Challenges many young boys face when they have diagnosed behavioral issues along with trauma in the family and all that goes along with being unstable, this boy was still working towards success. Our team would have meetings about KRIS... will he really make it past this process and eventually earn his spot a teen mentor?
Our teen mentor application process is very strict. Grades must be maintained above a 3.2 (even the college admissions believes we ask for too much..lol). Students must be participating in school based sports or extracurricular activity. They turn in an essay and references letters from community. (even though we know them, this teaches them the steps it takes to obtain employment or other important positions in life). When teens qualify they enter into our residency program for the entire length of camp and participate in workshops, community service, preparing camp for their buddies, supervision roles, and so much more. We truly create leaders of the future...
Eventually that time came for Kris. He did qualify. He had participated in a wide variety of sports, even finding his passion and becoming the state champion and won the FIIF PR. He went through our 4 years and found himself along with a passion for teaching. He took very well to becoming a teen leader and teaching the younger children the same skills he had to learn. I was so proud and even gave him a whistle. This is a huge responsibility and honor to have a whistle... that means you are ready to be "me" at camp.... again lol!! Only a few whistles are given out to be my eyes and keep everything running smooth.
He eventually graduated high school and went on to college. His first year in college he decided he would take up Hawaiian Studies and become a teacher for special education children.
He states, "He would like to use the Hawaiian values to hopefully be a method of reaching and being able to educate individuals who need an alternative way of learning like he did." He says he was given these extra steps and encouragement all through his life with us and wants to continue his teachings in the mainstream of the educational process. Reaching youth like himself who needs a mentor and someone who understands, but has the skills to teach.
He is on track to graduate in 2024 with his AA degree and will continue his education in special educational studies.
His father wrote a letter to us asking if Kris could return as an intern to work on his college resume. His Father wrote,
"You guys helped out our kids in so many was. They are all on their way to not fall through the cracks and hopefully stopping the generational cycle of poverty and struggling.
I honestly believe because of the confidence instilled in them, and the "I CAN" attitude you instilled in all your campers. For my kids I know you hold a special place in their hearts. They trust you will always be there for them through life and camp.
I know my teens would have never had the confidence to skills to even tryout for sports and extracurricular activities if it were not a requirement for their attendance in the teen mentoring program. This lead both my teens to winning championships, traveling to the mainland and accomplishing their goals.
This is a photo of him at our camp last year, graduating the teen mentoring program and on his way to college. We are honored to be able to present laptops to all our teens college bound and the seniors in high school. Our award winning mentoring programs have reached the hearts and the minds of many companies who share the passion of giving back to educating our youth. Lenovo gave Chromebooks for all our graduates in 2022.
Many may not know the full scope of our programs and how much they change lives, paths, and truly do end the cycle of poverty and homelessness.
Our teen mentoring program provides a certificate program that teens can use to obtain credits for their high school graduation and even for college acceptance. The workshops performed are life based and inner work to create the leaders within themselves. They also earn 200 hours of service learning that can be applied to receive the President's Award. Teens also have real hands on experiences that allow them to practice these new found skills. In addition, they are given opportunities for public speaking, fundraising, marketing and other skills needed in real life situations. Giving them this advantage over a 4 year period instills the foundation of their leadership. By the time they graduate from us they are confused to face the real world challenges, apply for college, and employment opportunities. We have had many students receive grants as much as $20,000. due to their resumes of our mentoring program accomplished. One teen even earned $20,000. and the second year of college another $10,000. from these certificates.
We have high statics of our teen mentors graduating high school of over 85%. and those continuing to college is over 45%. While these statics out rank the state by a landslide, our goal is to have 100% graduate and 100% attend college or trade school. For these children, education and the experiences they learn along the way are the key to their success. Being born into poverty and to families who are not well educated or even have a high school diploma themselves is a hard cycle to escape. This is our mission and our goal! To help homeless children succeed!!
We are proud of all our teens, but Kris is the greatest example of what can be done when no one else has the patience to continue. He was able to skip over the cracks, avoid being tossed into "babysitting class" in school, and was eventually seen as a leader in high school. The "impossible" happened!