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Youth in Foster Care Revel in Teen Day Activities

Posted on Dec 29, 2022 in Featured News, News & Reports, Press Releases
Image of from left, Raquel Gali, Judge Darien Ching Nagata, Kekoa Abellera, Tianna Webster,  Precious Ahulau-Kaleo, Melissa Mayo, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, and Chief Judge Robert Kim.

From left, Raquel Gali, Judge Darien Ching Nagata, Kekoa Abellera, Tianna Webster, Precious Ahulau-Kaleo, Melissa Mayo, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, and Chief Judge Robert Kim.

HILO, Hawaii – More than 20 teenagers from 12-17 had the chance to enjoy Teen Day, which was sponsored by the East Hawaii Youth Leadership HI HOPES board. The acronym stands for Hawaii Helping Our People Envision Success, and is led by Raquel Gali.

The youth, who are in foster care, shared the Hilo Family Court courtroom with social workers, deputy attorneys general, guardians ad litem, parents’ attorneys, HI HOPES board members and volunteers, Salvation Army Family Intervention staff, judges, and Judiciary staff members.

“The goals for Teen Day are to educate foster youth on what rights and services are available to them, encourage them to attend court hearings and meet and talk to their judge, expose them to the court environment in a friendly, welcoming way, and really to have an enjoyable time,” remarked Third Circuit Family Court Judge Darien Ching Nagata.

The Nov. 17 program featured a courtroom overview by Judge Nagata, ice breaker activities, and a session on “Know Your Rights” with HI HOPES board members Melissa Mayo and Precious Ahulau-Kaleo. There was a panel discussion on “Participating in Your Court Hearings” with Deputy Attorney General Ken Goodenow, Guardian Ad Litem Valerie Grab of the Children’s Law Project, Albert Pacheco, HI HOPES board member Kekoa Abellera, and Judge Nagata. The Salvation Army’s Jasmine Castro conducted a session on the Imua Kakoa program for foster youth transitioning into adulthood.

Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald greeted the teens and encouraged them to complete their education, since it will be the foundation of their future success. He then fielded their questions, including “Of all the careers, why did you choose this one?” “What do you like most about your job?” “When did Foster Care start?” and “What is your favorite mochi?” (By the way, it’s strawberry).

The youth were also greeted by Third Circuit Court Chief Judge Robert D.S. Kim, who encouraged them to be ready to make their mark in the world.

The excitement level in the room went up another notch when it came time for door prizes to be given away. The teens won gift cards, goodie bags, Polaroid cameras, and even a pair of Apple AirPods.

The afternoon concluded with pizza and cake, and an opportunity to be photographed in the Judge’s chair, banging the gavel, and asking for “order in the court!”

For more information, contact the Communications and Community Relations Office at 808-539-4909 or via email at pao@courts.hawaii.gov.

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