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Editorial | Island Voices

Hawaii’s After-School All-Stars aim to build on a successful start

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Last month, four participants from the After-School All-Stars programs at Kalakaua Middle School in Kalihi, King Intermediate in Kaneohe, Jarrett Middle School in Palolo and Washington Middle School in Honolulu had the privilege of taking a trip to Los Angeles to attend the first-ever CampUs — a weeklong ASAS-sponsored camp at Loyola Marymount University designed to prepare ninth-graders for high school, college and careers.

Kids from Los Angeles, the Greater Bay area, San Diego, Las Vegas and Hawaii ASAS programs, who are seen as having possible challenges in high school, but demonstrate the will and potential to succeed, were handpicked by their All-Star chapters and their school administrations.

Those selected experienced a glimpse of high school, learning state-specific graduation requirements, study skills and time management techniques; college, creating mock essays and completing actual college applications while selecting colleges and majors; and even careers, building a resume and hearing from guest speakers from a variety of sectors: Bonnie Reiss, California secretary of education (government); an animator from the cartoon South Park, the owner of an Internet company (business); and NFL defensive end Brandon Graham from the Philadelphia Eagles (sports/entertainment). They also participated in team-building activities and sports challenges.

On the last day, everyone attended an emotional ceremony, resembling a high school graduation, with formal presentation of a college acceptance certificate.

With the recent increase in high school graduation requirements, not to mention graduation rates declining in Hawaii, there are a ton of opportunities to inspire our youth. Simply put, sixth-, seventh-, eighth-graders, regardless of socioeconomic background, need positive role models, self-confidence and consistent reinforcement. Leadership skills are integral to CampUs curriculum, as our Hawaii kids were tasked with selecting a problem in their community and presenting a solution.

Drug abuse in Hawaii was the topic of focus, and our kids created a mock drug rehab center that catered to the learning styles of the patient. This assignment was particularly relevant as each of our kids were in some way touched personally by the serious drug issue facing our state. They presented their findings to their fellow campers, all of whom tearfully shared their own communities’ challenges from gang violence to graffiti.

Their presentation did Hawaii proud, and the Hawaii All-Stars clearly demonstrated growing confidence as they absorbed all that they had learned. From 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day for a week, participants endured a rigorous yet meaningful agenda.

Although hesitant on the first day away from home, our four All-Stars returned a week later from Los Angeles more confident and optimistic about their futures. As a result of the positive feedback from CampUs participants, After-School All-Stars Hawaii has started discussions with their future high schools — Farrington, Kaimuki, McKinley and Castle high schools — to look at replicating CampUs through partnerships with the DOE, Hawaii universities and colleges, non-profits, local businesses and the community at large. Bringing CampUs to Hawaii will enable ASAS to accommodate a larger number of kids, and expose them to the opportunities here at home. This is one way our entire community can get involved with the education of our youth, as they are the future leaders and workforce of Hawaii.

Dawn Matsuyama Dunbar is executive director of After-School All-Stars Hawaii.


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