Punky Pletan-Cross, CEO of Hale Kipa, shared how Hale Kipa is shifting its programming focus to education and vocational training in an interview with Pacific Business News reporter Jenna Blakely.
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Hale Kipa shifts focus, adds programs and plans doggie day-care business
Hale Kipa has instilled a more holistic approach to its efforts of helping at-risk youth in Hawaii with a focus on preventative educational programs, with a long-term vision toward opening its own school.
CEO Punky Pletan-Cross, who has been leading Hale Kipa for about 16 years, said the idea is that helping kids at an earlier age will reduce the number of young adults winding up in jail or in other trouble.
“We can work with trauma and the real emotional and psychiatric challenges, but they get through our programs and are doomed to lives of the ills that come with not having careers and aspirations,” Pletan-Cross said. “If you drop out of high school, for example, things will just keep going down; I’ve always been concerned that while we can deal with those parts of individuals that have concerned issues, there are other parts like their ability to get back on track educationally and have basic skills to live independently — things fundamental to success.”
As a result, the nonprofit has created new programs that will help students get the personalized support they need to stay in school and graduate as well as reduce school suspension rates. But Pletan-Cross has another big idea up his sleeve that would provide a bigger focus on education — a new school.
Originally, the nonprofit wanted to open a charter school but ended up scratching those plans because it wouldn’t be the right fit. The state Department of Education could only provide $6,000 per-pupil per-year for a charter school, which wouldn’t be enough to support the services needed by the population Hale Kipa serves.
“We are still pursuing an education program, but the form of that is undecided,” said Stacy Evenson, director of educational and vocational services. “We are working with folks in the DOE and others in the education community to see if there is some other construct — alternative learning center, school without walls or twilight school (a school with evening hours). We’re exploring those options.”
Regardless of the school’s construct, the nonprofit needs money as it is heavily reliant on state funding.
So, to bring in more revenue, Hale Kipa is planning a for-profit arm that would be a doggie day care facility on Oahu, where people in the community could drop off their dogs for a fee, which would support the nonprofit.
“We’re looking at opening a business that uses animal-assisted therapy as a premise,” Pletan-Cross said. “Dogs can be very therapeutic with kids, and so we’re looking at a model to do a combination of what I’d call vocational and educational support to youth, while providing a service in the community that would have a customer or client base and generate revenue.”
Evenson added that the nonprofit needs money to launch the service, as well as a location, but she hopes to see it solidify within a year.
The training aspect would allow at-risk youth to gain experience in job-readiness while working with dogs. It would be a 12-week program placing young adults in areas of animal care, accounting, inventory management, customer service, and website design.
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