By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Violence, teenage pregnancy, high school dropouts.
They are issues that afflict the education system across the country.
Beginning next month, the Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will launch a new program aimed at making them less a part of the school experience for Big Island students.
The office is administering the federally-funded Teen Outreach Program, which sets up clubs where students engage in discussions on the topics and how they can reduce their prevalence amongst their peers. The students also participate in community service.
Waiakea High School has been selected as a pilot for the program, and is expected to host the first club in January, said Lisa Faulkner-Inouye, the office’s special projects coordinator.
The Hawaii County Council will take up the issue today when it considers a resolution authorizing the county to enter into an agreement with schools on the island to implement the program.
The county will receive $442,000 for the four-year program, said Nancy Kelly, the office’s business manager. The money comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services but is passed through the state Department of Health.
It will eventually be expanded to 20 schools, with 10 on each side of the island, Faulkner-Inouye said. Up to 25 students would be in each club.
The office will be responsible for training facilitators that will work with the students.
“The social environment is emotionally supportive and safe,” Faulkner-Inouye said. “They believe the facilitator likes them and looks after them.”
The pilot will last for nine months, after which the office will begin seeking other schools to host the clubs.
The DOHcontacted the office about hosting the program, Faulkner-Inouye said.
County Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth said it fits in with the office’s goal of making healthier and safer communities.
“We’re not just here to put people in jails,” he said. “We are trying to make this a better community for everybody.”
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.