Kalihi Leadership Academy, (KLA) began as a grassroot effort in 2016 to link youth living at Kalihi Valley Homes (KVH) public housing community with caring adults. Hawai`i Friends board member Lisa Jensen met with youth in the Kalihi District Park and arranged for those from KVH to interact with community volunteers. It was a very informal effort, with the goal of letting the youth know that there were people in the community who were kind and cared about them. Many of the youth are from the Micronesia region of the Pacific and grew up facing challenges and bias that can interfere with their healthy development.
Hawai`i Friends offered to provide seed funding for the project in 2018. The project has grown and is now known as Kalihi Leadership Academy and has a home in the Kalihi Community of Christ church.
Kalihi Leadership Academy
In the fall of 2022, Dr. Martini, a retired UH Human Development professor, reached out to see if we would be interested in sending some of our teens to work on the Energy House gardening project on the Manoa Campus. This project involves tending to international gardens which produce food that the youths use to make dishes that they enjoy after completing gardening work. The youths who participated would like to continue to engage in this project. Most KLA youths have never stepped foot on the Manoa Campus, so spending time with Dr. Martini helps them to see what is possible. She has taken them on campus tours to demystify what life on campus looks like. See pics of the UH garden project:
Partners from the UH Suicide Prevention research unit led an activity from the Sources of Strength program:
Service Learning is an important part of KLA work. When asked what they would like to change in their environment, one of the youths responded that there is too much rubbish around where she lives, at Kalihi Valley Homes. We worked with the property manager to organize a clean up:
UH Human Development Intern Kaylin, who works as an EMT in addition to working on her BA, demonstrates for KLA youths how to use some of the items from her EMT bag.
KLA team member Stephen Chinen opens and closes each KLA session with Tibetan Singing Bowl and belly breathing. Many KLA youths are becoming adept at practicing this powerful coping skill. The secular practice of self calming is becoming more and more familiar to the youth.
KLA group, late in 2022
Final program day, December 2022