Kalihi Leadership Academy

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 

KLA team member Barbara Blanco leads an art activity, teaching youth about Chuukese masks.
The finished masks
Kalihi Leadership Academy
Here, Stephen Chinen teaches the youths about the benefits of belly breathing
Making Kon, Chuukese pounded breadfruit, at the final KLA celebration - our teacher is the highly skilled Chuukese community volunteer ES Ludwig
KLA kids and and team members enjoy dinner
The KLA team: From Left: Mert Chinen, Barbara Blanco, Lisa Jensen, Stephen Chinen, Pastor Wendy Horikami, Alanna Salas, and ES Ludwig
KLA provides stipends for the youths. At the end of the project term, Hawaii Federal Credit Union met with the youths to open savings accounts with the stipends they earned over the course of the semester

Fall 2022

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:

Interns Jayce and Mafua oversee making pizza for the group
KLA partner Merton Chinen gets his hands dirty at the Energy House project

Partners from the UH Suicide Prevention research unit led an activity from the Sources of Strength program:

uh suicide prevention meeting

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:

kla kalihi cleanup volunteers

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 2022

KLA group, late in 2022

Final program day, December 2022