New $6.2 million facility in full swing
By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Rod Ohira
KALIHI — Eleven-year-old Chelcie Augustin is doing homework in the computer lab a few doors down from a third-floor room where Reynold Fernandez is teaching hip-hop to a group of teens. On the first floor, six boys are shooting pool in the Teen Center.
Three Farrington High School seniors — Dova Rabusa, 18, Ashley Quemado, 17, and Jordan Bongolan, 17 — meet in a fourth-floor room to plan a CLUB 21 (Cool Ladies Unique Boys Together as One) community project for area students to clean up Kalihi Street on May 27.
It's a busy afternoon at the Kalihi YMCA, now housed in a new $6.2 million four-story, 30-room building at 1335 Kalihi St., near Farrington High School and the Bishop Museum. The 23,000-square-foot facility, which opened Sept. 1, is nearly four times as large as the 10-room building that had housed the Y since 1946.
In addition to the Teen Center, dance room and computer lab, the Kalihi Y has dedicated space for an adult fitness center, a cardio fitness center, meeting rooms and childcare center. There is also much-needed office space for staff, which had been sharing desks in the old building.
There's no gym or swimming pool because "we had to make a decision to get things that meet our most critical needs," said Anthony "Tony" Pfaltzgraff, group vice president and co-executive director of the Kalihi branch.
With her friends Quemado and Bongolan, Rabusa is following in the footsteps of former Kalihi Y youth leaders like the late Honolulu Police Chief Michael Nakamura and former City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro.
"Kalihi Y is important to Kalihi," Rabusa said. "It gives Kalihi kids what they need, which is an option. At Farrington, we see a lot of fights and disrespect. But you can come to Kalihi Y and have something different. If your options are limited, you can't stretch potential."
Among the options is a chance to stay out of trouble, said Bongolan. "It's helped me to stay off the street or go home and no nothing," said Bongolan, who has been coming to the Kalihi Y for four years. "There are a lot of rivalries, but this is a place where you come and put that aside. I've made new friends, lasting friendships."
Chelcie, a Dole Middle School student who doesn't have a home computer, said the Kalihi Y lab frees up time for her to pursue athletic interests. "I used to have to give up recess or stay late to go to the computer room at school to finish work, but this makes it a lot easier," she said.
The Kalihi Y runs a unique two-pronged operation: island-wide and community-based.
Its island-wide outreach efforts include adolescent high school substance-abuse treatment, middle school mentoring, the federally financed Rural Youth Crime Prevention Program, and judicial services at the Hawai'i Youth Correctional Facility through Family Court. The commitment is to reconnect teens with families and schools, and help them avoid substance abuse and stay in school.
The island-wide programs grew out of a request 44 years ago from the Kalihi community, said Pfaltzgraff, who has been involved with the Kalihi Y for 22 years.
"Around 1962 when (Kuhio Park Terrace) opened, there was a spike in gang activity and Kalihi Y was asked by the KPT community to work with at-risk teens," Pfaltzgraff said. "It was a successful development over the long term, and we were asked by Waipahu, Waimanalo, Wai'anae and 'Ewa Beach to expand our programs to their communities. Our school-based substance abuse program is in 14 high schools."
Besides the outreach, the Kalihi Y helps the community of Kalihi by providing safe after school activities for youth.
The new facility allows the Kalihi Y to run child, teen and adult programs simultaneously instead of juggling schedules according to availability of rooms. "We're trying to create a multi-purpose environment," Pfaltzgraff said, "and we have a nice mix of retirees, young children, teens and young adults."
It took 20 months to raze the old building and build the new one, which opened last Sept. 1. During a recent school intercession period, the Kalihi Y was able to run all its programs at the same time. "We could have never done that before," said field supervisor Dave Endo.
Quemado, who first came to the Kalihi Y six years ago, said it was difficult to keep CLUB 21 activities going during the long closure, but the new facility "gives them the opportunity to offer a lot of stuff." CLUB 21 reorganized about six months ago.
"This is bigger, cleaner and it's a friendly environment," Quemado said. "The old building was cozy, but everything was old."
Since the facility reopened, CLUB 21 has added activities such as cooking and community service to the popular hip-hop dance classes. The club is also trying to organize students from area elementary and middle schools to do community service. CLUB 21 members recently helped do a cleanup in Waipahu.
Reach Rod Ohira at firstname.lastname@example.org.