East Hawaii News

Program Would Assist Disadvantaged Native Hawaiian Teens

February 20, 2014, 5:06 PM HST
* Updated February 21, 10:05 AM
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A program guided by the University of Hawaii at Hilo that would boost life skills for disadvantaged native Hawaiian youth is moving through the state Legislature.

Senate Bill 3093 would fund mentoring and other activities in the RISE 21st Century After School Program.

RISE stands for Revealing Individual Strengths for Excellence. It is tentatively aimed at youth ages 13 to 17 living in the Keaukaha and Panaewa areas of Hilo.

The program would be operated through the university’s Imiloa Astronomy Center and Division of Academic Affairs, according to a memorandum of understanding signed in November between UH-Hilo and RISE.

Initially slated for two years, RISE would provide participants with academic and career planning and with projects that would address community issues.

The bill, which in its current form would provide $315,000 for the program, has been endorsed by two Senate committees including Ways and Means, which approved it unanimously today.

Stan Roehrig, a Hilo attorney and former state senator, sees a promising future for RISE.

“We believe this program, initially based in Hilo, will be a prototype for an important statewide after-school program in all areas of the state where the Hawaiian communities and their families are at risk,” he said in written testimony submitted to the Senate Higher Education Committee.

In other testimony, retired assistant police chief Elroy Osorio Jr. noted that the program would use traditional Hawaiian methods and practices “while still utilizing state-of-the-art technology to capture the imagination and enthusiasm of the students.”

“My own children are too old to benefit from this program,” he said, “but I can only pray that RISE will still be viable when my grand-children, and my great-grandchildren come of age to participate.”

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