For Pi‘ilani Alapai-Lopez, Kauai will always be home. It is where she was born and raised. It is where many of her closest family members live. It is where she goes when she needs to take a break from her busy schedule. And it is where she sees her future.
Pi‘ilani left Kauai when she was 13 years old after challenges in her personal life led to lapses in her school attendance. She was raised for most of her childhood on the beach, finding a home on Oahu with Hale Kipa for the past 5 years. Through ongoing support with a Hale Kipa therapist and case worker, she is now pursuing her education and career goals on Oahu.
“There are times when I am pulled between going home and staying here, but my opportunities are here,” she said. “For us kids who are less fortunate, we struggle, we go through things. We must choose the route that we think is going to help us. Hale Kipa has really supported me with that.”
After participation in several Hale Kipa programs, including Kauai’s Intensive Mentoring Program and the Emergency Shelter Program, Pi‘ilani entered Hale Kipa’s Transitional Family Home program, which provides individual and family therapy and support through foster home placement. She had just turned 17 years old.
“I hadn’t been in a foster home before, and I didn’t want to do it,” she said. “But once I was there I was more comfortable, and it is a big part of me being happy. I have my self-esteem back. I started going back to school. Someone is taking care of me – I’m not on my own.”
Now 18 years old, Pi‘ilani splits her time between studying for the first of four General Educational Development (GED) tests through Goodwill Industries of Hawaii’s Ola I Ka Hana program in Kapolei and working part-time as a customer-service representative for Pizza Hut.
“I am really good at my job,” she said. “I am a fast learner in general, especially with things like computers. My time living on the beach taught me how to communicate and be resourceful.”
Pi‘ilani showed “determination and hard work” in reaching her treatment goals, said Hale Kipa Program Coordinator Danielle Miller.
After taking her GED test this fall, Pi‘ilani plans to transfer into the Job Corps, a no-cost education and vocational training program in Waimanalo administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. There, she will receive training and certification to become an auto mechanic – a passion she developed through her close bond with her father.
“I am getting back on my feet,” she said. “Eventually I’ll go back home. I am going to be successful there.”
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