Kalani Teens Do Home­work On Shar­ing

MidWeek Islander (East Oahu) - - FRONT PAGE - By SARAH PACHECO

For the past nine years, a se­lect group of Kalani High stu­dents has been learn­ing the true mean­ing of Christ­mas through a spe­cial giv­ing project to pa­tients of Men­tal Health Kokua.

Spe­cial ed teacher Lau­rie Seu and a group of helpers col­lect toi­letry items and trin­kets from fac­ulty, staff and from other DOE offices through­out the year, and as the hol­i­days near, Seu and her class sort through the goods, check­ing their list once, then twice, to make sure that each item is in good, gift-able con­di­tion.

“ The stu­dents are re­spon­si­ble for sort­ing the items, cat­e­go­riz­ing them and separat­ing items suit­able for a man and for a woman,” she ex­plained.

“Af­ter we bag (the items) we send it away for peo­ple with men­tal ill­ness,” added stu­dent Mikey Young. “And men­tal ill­ness peo­ple would be so happy be­cause we give them Christ­mas gifts.”

Up un­til a year ago, Seu added, they had been putting them in shoe­boxes and wrap­ping them. But with the eco­nomic down­turn

came fewer do­na­tions, and sud­denly a shoe­box seemed cav­ernous.

“Keep­ing in mind that for many of the clients this is their only gift, we did not want to give them some­thing that would be half full,” she ex­plained. “So we in­cor­po­rated art ex­pres­sion and dec­o­rated 200 gift bags with paint and sten­cils. We were able to fill the bags and even had trou­ble clos­ing some. Now that’s a good sign.”

Kalani’s in­volve­ment be­gan in 2001 when its Work­place Readi­ness class would go from the high school to Gail Ozawa’s Di­a­mond Head of­fice to as­sem­ble the shoe­boxes for Men­tal Health Kokua, a non­profit that helps peo­ple with men­tal ill­ness and strives to elim­i­nate the stigma at­tached to it.

In 2004, Ozawa asked if Seu could con­tinue the project at the school with her spe­cial ed class.

“ This project now has be­come an av­enue for the de­vel­op­ment of many other skills,” Seu said. “One for sure, it has helped in­crease stu­dent con­ver­sa­tions and so­cial skills with each other. They are build­ing, com­par­ing and con­trast­ing skills without even know­ing it in a fun and pro­duc­tive en­vi­ron­ment.”

“I learned it is nice to give gifts to peo­ple who don’t have gifts,” said stu­dent Taryn Wong.

They also learn kind­ness. On Dec. 9, the MHK staff vis­ited the Kalani class­room to pick up the load of presents and an­swer ques­tions about where the gifts were go­ing, who would get them and why this may be the only gift they get.

“I be­lieve the an­swers gave this project more mean­ing and pur­pose,” said Leu, who has taught at Kalani for 10 years.

“ The stu­dents now un­der­stand the idea of giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity, and they rec­og­nize that there are oth­ers who

Lau­rie Seu (far right) joins Dale Higa, Justin Morita, Eric Young, Mikey Young, Alice Webb, Keilani Robin­son and Taryn Wong Dec. 9 to do­nate gift bags to pa­tients of Men­tal Health Kokua. Photo by Nathalie Walker, nwalker@mid­week.com.

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