Maui News

Maui County Council wins national award for youth-focused ʻImi Pono Challenge

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Angie Pustelnik, a 7th grader at St. Anthony School, created this poster about the four Ws — Wear Your Mask, Wash Your Hands, Watch Your Distance and Worldwide Vaccination — for the 2021 ‘Imi Pono Challenge. Photo Credit: Maui Economic Opportunity.

The National Association of Counties presented the Maui County Council with a 2022 achievement award in civic engagement and public information for its youth-focused ʻImi Pono Challenge at NACo’s annual conference last month in Aurora, Colo.

In the summer of 2020, County Council Chair Alice L. Lee and her colleagues launched the ‘Imi Pono Challenge in collaboration with middle and high school students to create sustainable solutions to the negative social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a press release, Lee said the program was created to inspire the youth of Maui County to be involved in community affairs and seek righteousness, or ‘imi pono.


“We wanted to harness ideas from Maui County’s young people and remind them they always have a seat at the table when it comes to community building and recovery,” said Lee, who holds the council seat for the Wailuku-Waihe‘e-Waikapū residency area. “We will continue to look at innovative ways to engage our youth and keep them connected to key issues.”

In a statement on its website announcing the council’s award, NACo said: “All participants —including the councilmembers, the students and their families, schools and communities —were enriched by the ʻImi Pono Challenge experience.”

There were 175 entries from 15 schools across the county. Winning participants were recognized and given the opportunity to connect with community mentors to bring their ideas to life.


The council has partnered with Maui Economic Opportunity and others in the community to make ʻImi Pono a perpetual program, Lee said.

“We are so excited that a program like this can be created and sustained,” said Debbie Cabebe, MEO’s chief executive officer. “The upcoming theme will be on the prevention of underage drinking and raising awareness of the dangerous appeal of juice-flavored alcoholic beverages.”

Cabebe said the program will mount a public-education campaign early in 2023, which will include public service announcements, posters and appeals to merchants.


For more information, please contact the Office of Council Services at 808-270-8008 or the office of Cabebe at 808-249-2990.

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