Shoplifting Incident Sparks Free Education Initiative

January 4, 2017, 10:59 AM HST
* Updated January 4, 11:02 AM
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Hilo’s Keaukaha Market crew courtesy photo.

Can compassion prevent crime?

That was the question Breeani Sumera-Lee, manager of Hilo’s Keaukaha Market, found herself struggling with recently after catching a young boy attempting to steal fishing equipment from her family’s general store.

Rather than call the police, Sumera-Lee decided to offer the boy some advice. But when she suggested the boy apply for a job, he simply answered, “I don’t know how.”

When she proposed that he start with resume writing, the boy again explained, “I don’t know how.”

Breeani Sumera-Lee of Hilo’s Keaukaha Market. Courtesy photo.

The encounter left Sumera-Lee questioning how different the boy’s life would be if he possessed skills that would help him make better choices. Inspired, she set to work organizing a series of free educational classes meant to help uplift the surrounding community.




After three years of preparation, including website building and discussions with professionals and community leaders, Sumera-Lee found a class facility and secured teaching commitments from experts in everything from resume writing and interview preparation to financial wellness, self defense, dance and more.

The inaugural Keaukaha Community Class series will start on Jan. 15 at the Keaukaha Gym, with subsequent classes held on the second weekend of each month throughout the remainder of the year.

Featured presenters for 2017 include former Miss Hawai`i Raeceen Satele, Sen. Kai Kahele, 2016 Miss Aloha Hula Ka`iulani Carr and many others.


Attendance is free and all materials will be provided, along with food and drinks.

To sign up for classes and for more information, visit

Classes are open to the public. Self defense class attendees must be at least 18 years of age.

The Keaukaha General Store is a longtime fixture of the lower Hilo community, providing food, crafts and merchandise to visitors and residents alike. The store was purchased by the Lee family in 2012 and currently features a gourmet coffee bar, daily “bentos” and locally made products.

For more info, visit

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