With school campuses closed, non-profit finds innovative ways to help at-risk youth

Updated: May. 12, 2020 at 4:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With public school campuses closed, a non-profit group is working hard to make sure that at-risk youth don’t fall through the cracks.

Adult Friends for Youth usually does outreach at schools and in the community at places like parks. The group is now finding new ways to make sure that students stay motivated and have access to help.

Moanalua High School student Cross Senen got involved with the organization in middle school. The 15-year-old sophomore said his grades have improved since then.

"I was getting in trouble, like fighting and stuff, and then my mom them decided that I needed help," said Senen.

Employees interact with hundreds of intermediate and high school students from Waianae to Kaimuki each week.

With school campuses closed, they’re now driving children to the organization’s office where computers are available.

“It would be hard because I wouldn’t have anybody to help me and no more wi-fi at home,” said Rynext Manex, a senior at Farrington High School.

Due to social distancing guidelines, small groups of students rotate throughout the day.

"Our staff is going out to pick up some, coming to the office, working with them, taking them back after couple hours, come back with the next group, and in between sanitizing everything," said Debbie Spencer-Chun, president and CEO of Adult Friends for Youth.

They also tutor at a homeless encampment and an emergency shelter.

Many of the kids that the group engages with are involved in some type of violence.

“The schools are referring them, the police, the legislators. A lot of people are referring them because they’re being destructive in the community,” said Spencer-Chun. “But for most of them, they come from that. To them that’s the norm — the violence, the crime, the drugs.”

Employees are working with more than 40 seniors to make sure they meet all their graduation requirements. Some have their sights set on college.

"Right now, I'm working on applying to KCC (Kapiolani Community College) with AFY. They're helping me be a scholar there," said Malik Lokeni, a senior at Farrington High School.

Even during the pandemic, the non-profit group is determined to change lives by offering hope.

"All I've got to say is, 'Thank you and I love you guys for everything that you have done,'" said Senen.

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