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Hōkūpa‘a Community Bright Spot: Tamaroa Atkinson-Adona

March 14, 2021, 6:00 AM HST
* Updated March 14, 12:53 AM
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Community Bright Spot is a submitted article to Big Island Now.

“We are the next generation that’s gonna have to take care of Hawai‘i Island. Support youth. Listen to their problems and what they actually need help with. In the future, we will have great, positive changes. The next generation is gonna be in the community every day,” said Tamaroa Atkinson-Adona, Lili‘uokalani Trust Youth Leadership Council member and senior at Kealakehe High School.

Tamaroa is most passionate about helping others – it’s the reason he joined Lili‘uokalani Trust’s West Hawai‘i youth leadership council in his hometown of Kailua-Kona. In his experience, helping people lets you make a positive change in peoples’ lives, see them happy and having fun, all while making connections and learning new things. Many kids are unhappy with the way the world is now, and Tamaroa wants to see peace and positivity on the faces of both kids and parents. Working with adults and peers on the youth council empowers him to pursue such change.

Landon Chinen, who works as a youth development specialist for Lili‘uokalani Trust, brought Tamaroa into the youth council at a time when he needed fresh perspectives on youth leadership. Chinen strives to create an environment where students feel heard in a meaningful way – a group where young people know the adults will help turn their ideas into action.

In early 2019, Tamaroa and a handful of other students met to come up with a new, youth-led vision and mission for the council. To frame this important work, Tamaroa asked the group, “What would the Queen do?”

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Everyone agreed that Queen Lili‘uokalani would want the voices of all children of Hawai‘i, not just Native Hawaiian children. Having opened the youth council to members of different backgrounds, they created their shared vision: Thriving for a prosperous future through the voices of ‘Elele Aupuni (youth ambassadors), and mission: Supporting our children to make a positive change through their voices in the community. This clear, service-oriented mission statement guided their work to directly address community challenges they observed.

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Before the pandemic delayed their plans, the West Hawai‘i youth council bravely chose domestic violence as their key action area because of how much it affects people’s lives here. When it is safe to gather, they plan to host seminars to educate and empower the community on the prevention of domestic violence, as well as how to support survivors and those experiencing domestic violence.

Bringing together youth working on other issues is their second big target. The Lili‘uokalani Trust council members were so inspired by youth summits on other islands that they are advocating to have one here that is accessible to locals who might not be able to fly to O‘ahu. While COVID-19 has delayed planned in-person events, the boom in digital meetings sparked connections with others interested in hosting a virtual youth summit, and planning is underway.

While the youth council cannot continue its usual service work, for now, they meet and communicate online with the other Lili’uokalani Trust Hawai‘i Island youth councils. However, the pause on in-person activity has been difficult. It is challenging to engage after spending all day on the computer for school, and some lack reliable access to the Internet. Still, the councils find ways to contribute, such as making masks to give to local families. For the holidays, they’ve stayed connected with family recipes. Responding to needs observed in their own networks, the group also helps its members with college and scholarship applications.

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Get involved. While 2021 remains uncertain, the council is always open to new members. Interested youth or anyone wishing to refer action-minded youth can email Landon at [email protected] or call 808-466-8262. Currently, there is a high school group for 9th-12th graders, and a young adults’ group for post-high through age 26 is in the works.

Tamaroa encourages young people to reach out even if they aren’t sure about joining. They can also make a difference however they want to. As he puts it: “Next generation gotta carry our island, know our culture. Tell people, ‘This is us. We are Hawai‘i, and we are proud to be it.’”

Connect on social media. Anyone interested in keeping up with Lili‘uokalani Trust’s statewide youth development programs can follow @lt_opio on Instagram. Lili‘uokalani Trust’s main Instagram is @Liliuokalanitrust

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