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Program teaches youths to handle life’s challenges

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    Forty students from Waialua, Wahiawa and Waianae participated in the Odyssey III Challenge course yesterday at Camp Erdman.

With the help of a federally funded youth program, Kai­mana­loa Samson overcame one of his greatest fears: heights.

Walking 42 feet above the ground on a ropes course in Camp Erdman has boosted Samson’s self-esteem to the point that he can tackle any challenges, he said. The senior at Wai­anae High School said of the first time he went on the Odyssey III Challenge course last month, "If I can pass this, I can pass anything."

Samson was among 40 students from Wai­alua, Wahiawa and Wai­anae who participated in the challenge yesterday through the Rural Youth Crime Prevention Program.

The after-school program of the Young Men’s Christian Association of Hono­­lulu provides youths ages 10-17 with leadership development, career planning, field trips and other activities for middle and high school students in the three communities as well as Wai­pahu throughout the year.

Federal funding for the program, however, will end Sept. 30 due to budget cuts. U.S. Sen. Daniel Ino­uye, who met with the youths yesterday, said he is trying to find funding for the program from private organizations.

The program was created through a $6 million grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Program. So far, 6,000 youth have been involved in the program since it was established in September 2005.

YMCA Program Coordinator Dave Endo said the program helps youth, primarily "gap kids," who fall between honor roll students and those in need of treatment. They are good kids but still at risk of turning to drugs or crime without proper guidance, Endo said yesterday. The kids wouldn’t have any after-school activities without the program, he stressed.

YMCA officials are concerned as juvenile crime normally occurs between 3 and 6 p.m., according to Anthony Pfaltz­graff, senior vice president of the YMCA of Hono­lulu, Kalihi Branch. The after-school program offers support for youths on how to solve problems and make better choices. "It’s important to have positive role models to help guide them and help encourage them and give them feedback," he said.

Samson, 17, said the program has helped keep youths out of mischief, where staff teaches them lifelong lessons.

The ropes course is one example of how the program helps youth face and overcome challenges. "It pushes them outside their comfort zone," said Endo, adding it also helps with teamwork as they have to work together to finish the course.

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