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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 27, 2001

The September 11th attack
Hawai'i teens unite to aid relief effort

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward Bureau

KAILUA — Too young to give blood and lacking money to donate, Kailua High School student Jessica Swanson was feeling helpless after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the United States.

Jessica Swanson, 15, a Kailua High School student, is almost singlehandedly organizing Saturday's fund-raiser at Sea Life Park to raise money for the September 11th Fund. Teens Unite will feature entertainment by talented youngsters.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

So the 15-year-old decided to organize a fund-raiser that will give teens a way to contribute to the relief efforts.

The result is Teens Unite, with Extreme Radio as host and featuring entertainment by dozens of Hawai'i teen-agers, raffle giveaways, arts and crafts, food and other family activities Saturday at Sea Life Park's meadow.

"My goal for this event is to get the teens of Hawai'i together to ... do something to make a difference," Swanson said, adding that is why she didn't seek well-known entertainers. "I wanted it to be a bunch of young people that no one's heard of before, with extreme talent."

Worldwide shock over the attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was followed by an outpouring of help that united the country and gave people an avenue to deal with the emotions generated by the tragedies.

But teens have few options in contributing to disaster relief, which could leave them feeling helpless.

"We can't give blood," said Swanson, daughter of Tom and Alisa Swanson. "We cannot do the things that other people can, and you have that feeling of hopelessness."

 •  Teens Unite

What: Fund-raiser host Extreme Radio, will feature entertainment by Hawai'i teenagers, raffle giveaways, arts and crafts, food and other family activities. The event will benefit the September 11th Fund of the Hawai'i Community Foundation.

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: The meadow at Sea Life Park, 41-202 Kalaniana'ole Highway.

Fee: $6 for adults and $4.50 for children 4 to 12, which includes entry into Sea Life Park.

That feeling clouded Swanson's days after the attack, making it impossible to concentrate on school, she said.

She decided she had to do something and came up with the idea of a concert featuring talented teenagers.

She turned to adults for help, but she has done most of the legwork, they said.

Swanson was calm and resolute about her plan, said June Williams, an English and journalism instructor at Kailua High.

As the adviser for the school newspaper, Williams said she offered help and has advertised the event, but has been asked to do little else. She said the journalism students will help at the event.

Adults who know Swanson say she seems more like 20 or 30. She's poised and articulate, traits she learned or honed at Barbizon Model and Talent School, where she teaches, Williams said.

Alisa Swanson, who is director of education at Barbizon, described her daughter as stubborn, independent and self-motivating. She said Jessica learns quickly and can see outside herself.

"She keeps me busy," Alisa Swanson said. "My son is the same way."

Sabrina Tydingco, account manager at Extreme Radio, said Swanson is impressive.

"She's 20 years my junior and she is putting together and organizing an event that I would be hard pressed to do. She's going to be one of our leaders someday."

Swanson approached Tydingco with her idea, and the two organized the event together.

The station will provide a DJ at the event and has lined up sponsors who are donating raffle items worth from $50 to $200.

Swanson hopes to raise $10,400.

"Teens have asked how they can help and she came up with this idea," said KC Bejerana, radio program director and DJ. "It's all about teens wanting to be a part of Hawai'i helping out."