Wednesday, February 17, 1999

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Bernard Louis, a recipient of the Ola Pono Award, works
with young basketball player Alyssa Barroga. The award
recognizes individuals and groups who create healthy,
drug-free alternatives for the community.

Ola Pono winner
gives kids a place
to go—and hope

By Rod Ohira


Bernard Louis' coaching record shows many more losses than wins -- but it doesn't matter to him.

As a Kalihi native and single parent with an insider's view of life on the streets, the 35-year-old Kaiulani School custodian organizes youth sports teams for other reasons.

"Bernard's mission is to give kids a place to be after school," Kaiulani Principal Charlotte White said. "If it wasn't a mission, he wouldn't come to work at 6 in the morning and still be here at 6:30 at night."

Louis is one of the Ola Pono Award winners who will be honored Friday by the Hawaii Medical Services Association, Department of Education, the Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii, Department of the Attorney General, NBC Hawaii News 8, and Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate's Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Program.

The Weinberg Foundation also will receive a special recognition volunteer award.

Ola pono is Hawaiian for "live right," and the award recognizes individuals and groups who create healthy alternatives that result in a safe and drug-free lifestyle, said Alicia Maluafiti of HMSA.

Kaiulani School is across from Tamashiro Market and Kaumakapili Church on North King Street, near Kalihi's "drug triangle" bordering Mayor Wright Homes.

Four years ago, Louis organized an after-school sports program with White's blessing for 30 Kaiulani students, ages 7-11. That year, he entered two basketball teams in the Police Activities League.

Today, more than 60 kids, 18 years old and younger, compete in basketball, flag football and volleyball.

Louis, a Farrington High graduate who grew up in the area of lower Kamehameha IV Road, knows what it's like to grow up poor with nothing to do after school.

"I was a drug dealer and user," he said. "It was an easy way to make money. But I also was a single parent with two daughters, and I knew I'd better quit before I ended up in prison. I owe my life now to the Lord."

Louis has dedicated himself to keeping kids away from drugs and gangs. That's what Ola Pono is all about, said Lori Dakujaku, program manager for the Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii. "You want to create an environment and strengthen character and skills in people so when they have to make a choice, they'll make the right one," Dakujaku said.

Ola Pono Award winners
help island children realize
their own potential

Other than Bernard Louis, 1999 Ola Pono Award winners are:

bullet Nardine Murai: A counselor at Waimanalo Elementary/Intermediate School, Murai started a peer-mediation program to resolve campus conflicts and has been involved in a new after-school program.

bullet Farrington High's Peacemaking Program: The course teaches students about changes in attitudes and responses to conflict, accepting individual responsibilities for improving conditions in the community, and respect for diversity in culture and lifestyle.

bullet Walter Freitas: A Moanalua Lions Club member who has been involved since 1988 in the state coordination of the "Lions Quest: Skills for Adolescence Program," which promotes positive interactions, decision-making and esteem building.

bullet Bionic Menehune Club: This 40-member Waimea (Kauai) High School student group offers presentations on drug-free awareness, aloha responsibilities, listening and social skills, and respect to all Waimea High feeder schools.

bullet Jim Crowe: The program director for the Maui Economic Opportunity Youthbank served as administrator of Teen Challenge, a drug rehabilitation center in Olowalu, for more than 20 years, and is a member of Maui County Team for the Adolescent Wellness Plan and Maui Tobacco-free Partnership.

bullet Ho'omana Therapeutic Community Program: A substance-abuse treatment program at the Women's Community Correctional Center where counselors Bette Gerstacker, Helen Self and Ruth Springer often work on their own time to strengthen or repair family ties, and help women find clean and sober safe houses.

bullet Estelle Wong: Olomana School's principal has implemented systematic service learning activities, such as graffiti paint-overs and building playhouses for homeless children, to teach civic responsibility. She has integrated personal development lessons, such as the "World Youth Network's Center of Influence Principle," to develop self-esteem within the context of academic classes to assist in the rehabilitation of troubled youth.

bullet Resident Services Section: The state Office of Housing and Community Development branch has brought in $8.9 million in drug-elimination funding from competitive grants and established supportive services at public housing sites, such as the arts/entrepreneurship program at Kalihi Valley Homes.

bullet Nani Akeo: A groundskeeper at Pope Elementary School, she spearheaded community policing in Waimanalo to rid her neighborhood of drug dealers.

bullet Kaanapali Beach Hotel: The hotel reached agreement with ILWU Local 142 to become the state's first hotel to negotiate a comprehensive drug-free workplace program, providing for pre-employment, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, random and periodic testing.

bullet Leeward Oahu Lions Club: An active partner in Honowai Elementary School activities, the club participates in clean-up days year-round, paints over graffiti, and promotes drug and gang prevention.

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