June 02, 2022

PHOTOS: Hirono Tours Youth Services Sites, Meets with Hawaii Teachers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) toured two centers serving vulnerable youth in Hawaii — RYSE (Residential Youth Services and Empowerment) and We Are Oceania’s (WAO) Youth Empowerment Center — and met with leaders of the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) to discuss the ongoing challenges COVID has created for teachers and students.

The Senator began her day at the RYSE Campus, where she met with Executive Director Carla Houser and team of outreach and case managers that work to stabilize and provide a safe space for youth ages 14 to 24 to navigate their next steps to becoming self-sufficient in permanent housing. In 2019, RYSE’s Oahu Youth Board made significant contributions to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant application that resulted in a $2.7 million award and expanded Hawaii’s Coordinated Community Plan to End Youth Homelessness. 

“Every child deserves the chance to succeed, and RYSE’s innovative and holistic work is helping to make sure more children get that chance,” said Senator Hirono. “From working to end youth homelessness to disrupting pathways to incarceration, RYSE is providing opportunities and second chances to help vulnerable youth build better lives. It was great to see these programs in action and meet some of the young people benefitting from the services RYSE offers.”

After visiting the RYSE campus, Senator Hirono joined WAO CEO Josie Howard for a tour of WAO’s Youth Empowerment Center, which provides services including mentorship, educational support, college prep, financial literacy courses, and more to local youth. Founded in 2015, WAO is a non-profit committed to centralizing the support system for all Micronesian communities, families, and individuals in Hawaii. 

“Micronesian communities enrich Hawaii’s diverse cultural fabric,” said Senator Hirono. “Since its creation, WAO has helped foster community among the Micronesian diaspora in Hawaii and made significant achievements in enrolling community members in health care coverage and communicating the importance of protecting themselves against COVID-19. The Youth Empowerment Center is building on this important work to help ensure young people have the tools and assistance they need to succeed in school, work, and life, now and into the future.”

The Senator’s final meeting of the day was with HSTA leaders, including President Osa Tui, Jr. and Vice President Logan Okita. Senator Hirono heard from the educators about the ongoing challenges facing teachers and students as they work to address learning loss and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The conversation also touched on the tragic school shooting in Uvalde, Texas and school security. 

“COVID-19 has been incredibly challenging for our teachers. From adjusting to remote learning, to addressing students’ mental health challenges and working to minimize learning loss, teachers in Hawaii have consistently gone above and beyond for their students,” said Senator Hirono. “I was glad to help secure more than $400 million for our public schools in the American Rescue Plan to help address some of these challenges, but there is more work to do. I always appreciate the opportunity to hear directly from our teachers about what they’re facing in the classroom and how we can best support them. I’ll continue advocating for the resources our educators need to give every child in Hawaii and across our country the education they deserve.”

Photos of the Senator’s events can be found here