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Elvina Nartatez knows firsthand what it is like to be an at-risk teen on the Big Island. 

Elvina, an assistant program coordinator and foster home developer, grew up in the Puna District and attended Waiakea High School. After becoming embroiled in a relationship with an abusive, older man, she dropped out. Despite a loving family, she was out of control and acting out. 

Elvina landed in the custody of the Department of Human Services where she received services from various community providers. Some of her experiences were positive and some were negative. At times, she felt as though she wasn’t being heard and her personal goals were being dismissed. After only one night in foster care, she reunited with her abusive boyfriend. 

“I was being honest with what was going on with me, but some providers had their own agenda and opinions,” Elvina said. 

Only days after being reunited with her boyfriend, she was in the car with him and some other friends when the driver fell asleep at the wheel, causing a deadly accident. Elvina was the only survivor. 

Following the trauma of the accident, Elvina became suicidal. Eventually, she landed in the care of a psychologist who was able to help her. In 1992, she gave birth to a baby boy, which was the impetus she needed to change her life for the better. 

As a result of her own life experiences, Elvina developed a passion and motivation to serve children and families in her community. She wanted to be a person who would truly listen to the youth she works with, ensuring she champions their personal goals and needs.  

Elvina eventually received her GED, and, with the help of scholarships, she returned to school at the age of 30 to complete her bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawaii at Hilo, followed by her master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Hawaii Manoa. 

“I just want to be a person of change and someone kids can go to and be heard because, at times, I felt like I wasn’t heard,” Elvina said.  In her free time, Elvina enjoys fishing, camping, and spending time with her son, Kyle, and her two grandchildren who are 9- and 4-years old.