Categorized | Featured, Health

Youth share experiences from CADCA training

(Photo courtesy of North Hawaii Drug-Free Coalition)



Makanani Akau
Waimea resident
Honokaa High School
Mama’s House Lifeplan
Youth Group
NHDFC Youth Leader

Kynan Kawai
North Kohala resident
Kamehameha Schools
Ka Hana Noeau
Mentorship Program

Hoku Pagan
Waimea resident
Waimea Middle School
Mama’s House Lifeplan
Youth Group
NHDFC Youth Leader
North Hawaii Youth Leadership Team Coordinator


Cielito Rooney
Waikoloa resident
Cielito Rooney, Inc.
Representing the parent sector and media team of the North Hawaii Drug-Free Coalition


David Fuertes, Jr.
Beth Mehau

Since 1992, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) has been training local grassroots groups, known as community anti-drug coalitions, in effective community problem solving strategies, teaching them how to assess their local substance abuse-related problems and develop a comprehensive plan to address them.

Today, CADCA is the nation’s leading drug abuse prevention organization, representing the interests of more than 5,000 community anti-drug coalitions in the country.

North Hawaii Drug-Free Coalition sponsored three youth from North Hawaii to serve as representatives at CADCA’s Mid-Year Training Institute, held July 22-26 in Nashville, Tenn.

Themed “Ticket to Community Change,” participants explored various topics – everything from how to run a community anti-drug coalition to how to implement environmental strategies.

There were a total of 1,920 attendees, an increase of more than 57 per cent from last year’s event, including more than 400 youth who attended CADCA’s signature National Youth Leadership Initiative (NYLI Key Essentials and NYLI Advanced).

There were also 35 attendees representing 16 other countries.

Additionally, more than 150 members of the U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps attended the training to refine their skills and learn more about the coalition model.

On Thursday, Aug. 16, NHDFC-sponsored conference attendees were asked to share their experiences with the NHDFC Leadership Team.

Youth stated that they learned new skills on how to tackle community issues by identifying a problem specific to their community, developing a problem statement, then breaking that down into a few (achievable) top action steps to address the issue. They then presented their findings to hundreds of youth and adults.

NHDFC-sponsored adult representative Cielito Rooney was unable to attend this meeting, but shared her experience.

“What I got most out of the media courses was the term ‘media advocacy,'” said Cielito. “It’s changing policies rather than behavioral changes. What we see in our environment is a lot of alcohol marketing targeting youth, which undermines what we as parents (or adult influencers) are trying to teach our children. By reducing alcohol advertising exposure to young people, we can change attitudes towards underage drinking.”

Makanani Akau

Makanani attended the conference with a goal to make a change in our community and to look at various ways to teach youth to live healthier lifestyles and be drug-free. In the past two years, she has contributed more than 200 hours of community service in the area of drug and alcohol prevention messaging with peers who share her passion.

Participating in focus groups and helping create T-shirt designs are a few of Makanani’s most recent accomplishments.

With regard to the conference, Makanani said, “We met so many kids, and it was so cool hearing what they are doing in their state. The training was amazing – not just one boring guy talking. Everyone was enthusiastic and there were lots of kids and activities.”

Normally a bit shy in front of crowds, Makanani was eager to share their project outcomes with hundreds at the CADCA conference.
Kynan Kawai

Born and raised in North Kohala, a small community, Kynan has noticed underage drinking and substance abuse on a steady incline.

He remembers that when he was a child, there would be sign waving groups in his community sponsored by the Kohala Let’s Kick Ice drug prevention program. He would tag along with his mom, helping create catchy signs, like one that read “cook rice, not ice.”

Sadly, sign waving gatherings such as this have dwindled down to none. Kynan feels that sign waving was a very effective way of informing the public about being drug-free and is using the knowledge he gained in Nashville to revive sign-waving efforts in the North Kohala community.

He would also like to explore ways to create activities for youth to keep them busy and less likely to get involved with substance abuse.

Hokuulaikaleiohu Pagan

Hoku believes in communication and the power of knowledge. She attended the mid-year institute, further refining her skills to identify key issues and breaking them down so that it can be effectively addressed.

Her goal is to find ways to inform other youth to take a drug- and alcohol-free path in life. She feels if youth realize that they have a choice and are in control of their own destiny, they will, ultimately, make the right choices.

Hoku and Makanani, along with other youth from the Mama’s House Lifeplan Youth Leadership group, are looking at ways to share information they learned with their peers.

They have already distributed underage youth prevention brochures to 12 resource centers island-wide as part of the SPF-SIG “Models Not Bottles” initiative. They are currently working on a youth poster design contest.

The North Hawaii Drug-Free Coalition and Five Mountains Hawaii are pleased and proud to have had the opportunity to sponsor these individuals to the CADCA Mid-Year Institute in Nashville, Tenn.

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