Today’s blog comes from Katie Connor, the director of STN’s Ulu Pono program. To see more photos and read more about her life working with the kids of Wahiawa, visit her blog.
Do you remember your first piano recital or football game? The weeks of practice and the butterflies in your stomach? Do you remember looking up into the bleachers or squinting from the bright stage into the dark crowd? And there they were: the people who had pushed (maybe slightly forced) you to be there. They looked at you with love and pride, trying to mask their own anxiety for you. They belonged to you; they were your parents.
I remember many moments like this growing up and I long for those moments now when I’m living thousands of miles away. But the kids I work with don’t ever get moments like that. Maybe mom and dad are too busy, or gone completely, or just uninterested. Many of the kids have never been to a soccer practice or a ballet class. The street is where they spend their afternoons. The street and the Ulu Pono Kids Program. They may never hear their parents tell them how proud they were or that it was okay that they dropped the final pass. Often times it just isn’t a part of their culture. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t tell them we are proud of them! So this weekend, that is exactly what we did!
The Ohai Family Festival was a dream that we had cultivated for over a year before it came to pass. Many hours of dreaming, hoping, wishing and planning came to life in a beautiful afternoon. For four hours last Saturda,y everything was about the kids. The games, the prizes, the music, the shave ice. All because we were proud of them and we loved them.
Half way through the afternoon, we awarded each child from the program a “Character Award” they were called up on stage in front of everyone and amazingly there were even some parents in the crowd. They got a hug, a certificate, encouragement and an affirmation by different staff members. Most of them got really shy about it, red cheeked and squirming they got on stage and while they acted like they wanted to run off the stage, I know them better than that. They love, love. Don’t we all?
It’s hard to gauge success when working with kids. How do you measure “getting into less trouble” or “headed on a better path”? Three days after the festival, I went to pick up a 5 year old boy from his home. I know his parents well and his mom had come to the festival. I walked through the living room that consists of several mattresses and barely enough room to walk and picked up his baby sister out of the crib. That’s when I spotted it. His purple certificate pinned amongst the mess up on the wall. My heart swelled with pride and I choked up as the reality that his parents had taken the time to make sure his award was hung really sunk in. That is the kind of “success” I want to see. The kind that transforms an entire family from the inside out. -KC
Iconic Hawaiian artist Clark Takashima tragically passed away last weekend and here at STN we are saddened by the loss of this friend and supporter. Clark was not only a famous surf artist on the island, but had a heart to give back through his passion. He was a returning headline artist in several of our art shows and generously donated a portion of the sales made to our kids’ program, Ulu Pono.
Mahalo for your contribution to art on the island and being part of inspiring the kids in this at-risk neighborhood to pursue art.
We are so grateful for the people that believe in transformation and hope, and our efforts would be fruitless without them. Below are the contents of a special note we received recently from such a person:
“Dear Mr. Bauer,
So much positive changes are occurring right in front of our eyes because of your determined efforts! We are all beginning to set claims and pride on our residency in what is becoming the beautiful Wahiawa we always hope for, despite numerous negative issues. Your efforts are too often overlooked by us. Many decent businesses are now willing to “chance” Wahiawa while earlier we were overlooked as a possible risk.
Aloha for Hawaii Charities (AHC) is a unique fundraising opportunity in which charities selected by the Friends Of Hawaii Charities can raise funds through the community’s involvement.
Through AHC, Friends Of Hawaii Charities plans to match a portion of individual donations in an amount to be determined by the Friends of Hawaii Charities.
The Friends Of Hawaii Charities has played a huge role in the transformation of lower Wahiawa and bringing hope to the neighborhood. Specifically, the grants received from FOHC have helped to start and sustain the Ulu Pono after school program. Through this support, dozens of at-risk youth have received tutoring, lessons in art, dance, and music, as well as mentorship and a safe place to enjoy childhood.
The funds received from this Aloha for Hawaii Charities fundraiser will go towards the cost of maintenance and upkeep of the STN headquarters.
The donation period is now through January 12, 2014, 4:00 PM HST.
To give, visit http://www.friendsofhawaii.org/aloha-hawaii-charities and select ‘ Surfing The Nations’ on their list of charities when prompted.
Thank you for making this holiday season one of Aloha!
Tomorrow, November 15th, and Saturday, November 16th, 63 S. Kamehameha Highway will be overrun by artists and musicians, vendors, surfers and surf enthusiasts from all over. STN’s ‘Surf Art And The Surfer’ art show serves to gather the island of Oahu to celebrate the sport of surfing and the people who make it great.
In the 30’s and 40’s surfers were viewed as the deadbeats of society who threw off responsibility in exchange for what was deeemed a wasted life. However, today you are just as likely to find a US Senator, a doctor, lawyer, pastor, or any type of businessman in the lineup with groms and surf bums. The sport is now widely enjoyed and appreciated for the simplicity, beauty and positivity that it promotes.
We have invited some of Hawaii’s best surf artists, photographers and collectors to feature their work and show the public how surfing is documented as an art form and as a lifestyle.
Join us as we kick off the winter season on the North Shore and celebrate the world’s greatest sport!
A portion of the art sales this weekend will go towards the humanitarian work of Surfing The Nations.
Yesterday, Surfing The Nations was honored to be named as an Outstanding Advocate For Children and Youth in the state of Hawaii. Governor Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii State Representatives honored several other individuals and organizations as a part of Children and Youth Day, and Children and Youth Month.
We are humbled and stoked to be a part of bringing hope to the next generation of Hawaii!
Surfing The Nations has been working for several years with the kids from a transitional housing shelter in Waianae, teaching surf and swim lessons every week. The kids that participate are living through some unstable and challenging situations and need something to give them hope, and more importantly, someone to be there for them and believe in them.
Throughout the years, Surfing The Nations has seen the Waianae Surf Club grow and thrive. Cobian sandals came alongside the Waianae Surf Club and TJ Barron taught at the first Waianae Surf Camp last year. Ever since then, our partnership with Cobian has given the kids some amazing opportunities.
This weekend, for the second year in a row, kids from the Waianae Surf club will be participating in STN’s Freedom Surf Contest. Cobian has sponsored five contestants from the club, giving them the chance to use everything that they have learned to compete. The big picture is to not only enable the kids to compete, but to inspire them to dream without limits and view themselves and their futures with hope, despite the hardship and poverty that they’ve experienced.
Check out the Cobian video with TJ Barron at the Waianae Surf Camp, and come to the contest to cheer them on this weekend!
Fall is officially here! Some people know it’s fall by the changing of the temperature or the leaves changing color (or the return of pumpkin spice everything) but at STN we know it’s fall because of the new arrivals! We’ve started a new SLS class with five new students from Switzerland and the United Sates and this weekend we welcome 35 new interns from all over the globe!
Alas, although the season has changed, summer is not soon forgotten! Summer 2013 was one for the books. To give you some proof of that, we’ve put together a little video for your enjoyment.
Thanks to all who participated in the trips, internships, and summer challenge!
Today’s blog is from our amazing Ulu Pono Kids Director, Katie Connor. This woman has an amazing (and patient!) heart for the kids on our street – and in my opinion, one of the toughest jobs at STN! She is constantly striving to make the program the best it can be and provide the children with every opportunity possible. However, there is one thing she cannot do – stop the kids from growing up! In today’s guest blog, she explains her plans and hopes for the Ulu Pono Kids program as its members become too old to be called “kids.”
“Ulu Pono Teens” – to this day, the name of this 4 month old program cracks me up. But let me set the stage before I explain why it makes me chuckle so much. The Ulu Pono Kids Program was created four years ago when the staff at Surﬁng The Nations saw a great need to hold an after-school program for the elementary age kids in the local area. The program was an immediate hit and quickly became a home away from home for them.
However, as many of those kids are now in middle school and high school, their interests have changed and most of their younger siblings attend the program. This age gap has caused many of them to drop out as it is hard to engage a 5 year old and 13 year old in the same lesson and social setting. We came to the realization that we needed to go back to the drawing board and create a program that would give the teens a safe place to learn and hang out while appealing to their age group.
Hence, Ulu Pono Teens was created. But at ﬁrst the program was nameless. As a staff, we tried to come up with a name that might appeal to teenagers – Wahiawa Gangstas, Ohai Ballers etc… We decided that at our ﬁrst meeting we would present the names to the kids, let them make their own suggestions, and then cast a vote!
Their favorite was “Ulu Pono Teens,” a name they created and they have shamelessly owned ever since (despite the fact that many are still 11 and 12 years old!). It is a simple name, but it describes perfectly where they have come from, who they are now and even who they are becoming. Although, it still makes me laugh that they didn’t like any of the elaborate names we had created!
To be in Ulu Pono Teens you must be in sixth grade or older, but our oldest kids are only 14 at the moment. Because of their age we have been able to do things that some of the younger kids may not yet be able to do, such as snorkeling, hiking and trips to the museum. Our heart is to show these kids that there is “life” and a future for them beyond their street and neighborhood; that they have the opportunity to follow their passions if they work hard. We also teach them basic leadership principles through simple things like neighborhood clean-ups to help them understand the importance of being upright citizens and members of their community.
We are so proud of these kids and are excited to see them continue to grow and develop into young adults over the next few years. We know that these kids have the power to inﬂuence the future of this community and we are honored to be a part of the continued change happening in Wahiawa, Hawaii.
To keep up with Katie’s personal adventures as the Ulu Pono Kids Director, follow her blog at adventurewahiawa.wordpress.com!