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.
The KLA project promotes protective factors for the healthy development of youth living at KVH that is aligned with an evidence-based positive youth development model known as Teen Outreach Program or TOP. KLA will use the TOP curriculum, which includes lessons on health and wellness, relationships, emotion management, decision making, problem solving, goal-setting, self-understanding, social identity, and communication in working with the youth in the leadership academy.