MEO awarded $350,000 grant to spearhead program for at-risk teens

September 22, 2010, 3:35 PM HST · Updated September 22, 3:35 PM
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Maui Economic Opportunity Inc. is the recipient of a two year, $350,000 grant to spearhead the “Ka Wili Pu” program to help at-risk high school teens.

The money is made possible through federal funding and the support of Hawaii’s congressional delegation including U.S. Senators Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel Akaka, as well as Congresswoman Mazie Hirono.

The funds will be used to expand services for the state’s existing dropout prevention program.  It will also go towards more tutoring, mentoring, service learning and life and career skills opportunities for students who are in danger of dropping out or being held back a year.

“A good high school education is absolutely critical for our keiki to lead happy, productive lives,” said Senator Akaka, a former teacher, principal and administrator in Hawaii before joining Congress. “The Ka Wili Pu program will allow mentors to reach out to at-risk youth on Maui with support and encouragement to stay in school and get a good start on life,” said Akaka.

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According to the National Research Council, at least 25 percent of young adults across the nation are at serious risk of falling into substance abuse, adolescent pregnancy, getting into trouble with the juvenile justice system or just struggling to get by academically in school. Locally both Baldwin and Maui high schools reported a total of 99 teenagers who failed to graduate and another 110 freshmen who were held back from advancing to the next grade last year.

“Educating our young people is the greatest investment we can make in our future,” said Senator Daniel K. Inouye. “A lot of these children need a strong, adult presence to encourage them to finish school and this program will help them find it.”

The success of the Ka Wiili Pu program will be measured by calculating graduation rates, grade promotion rates, the number of course failures, the number of behavior problems and disciplinary referrals and school attendance. That evaluation will be available to the public after it is gathered and at the end of the grant’s two year period.

“The evaluation will help us better understand how to help our youth. Nationwide, more and more teenagers are dropping out of school, and at a younger age,” said MEO CEO Sandy Baz. “By making these programs more available MEO improves students’ chances of graduating, which in turn leads to greater success in the community and their own personal lives.”

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