Our Islands, Our Future

Geanell Bernardo

Students in the Focus Maui Nui Youth Alliance got a taste of government at work as they testified at budget hearings before the Maui County Council. “It was an amazing experience,” said Baldwin High School freshman Chelsea Kau. “It went pretty fast, just a few minutes but I felt good, like I was doing my part to make a difference in my community.” Senior Geanell Bernardo said she learned a lot about what it takes to advocate for funds. “The County Council members were really nice. At first, I found it nerve wracking, but then I got comfortable testifying in front of them,” Bernardo said.

Both girls asked for continued program funding. Youth Alliance members attend monthly events during the school year to explore and gain a greater understanding of key components in the Maui community. They also complete service projects, all coordinated by Maui Economic Development Board. “It’s both educational and enjoyable,” Bernardo told County Council members about the Youth Alliance. “In a way, this program has changed me. Without this experience, I wouldn’t feel like I could be a leader and make a difference in our community.”

Chelsea Kau

Youth Alliance Coordinator Willow Krause said the program is dedicated to promoting leadership and community awareness. “I am proud to see the students confidently express the positive effects that the Youth Alliance has had on their lives such as building self-esteem, meeting students from all over Maui Nui and learning to look at our island community in a whole new way,” Krause said. Kau added that aside from the Youth Alliance, she would like to see the County allocate more funding for programs that overcome drug addiction, educate high school dropouts, and support families in job and educational training opportunities. “It was really interesting to hear what’s going on in the county and to see what our community needs,” she said.