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Candid Discussion at the Youth Summit

By Maria Angst, Community Reporter 

Photo by Maria Angst.

Last Saturday, the students became the teachers at the Molokai Youth Summit. 

This year’s summit featured a panel of students, ages 12 to 18, discussing serious issues affecting today’s youth with the parents of students. 

“The parents really appreciated hearing it from the students. It almost felt like they were hearing it for the first time,” explained Molokai High School (MHS) teacher and one of the organizers of the event, Ric Ornellas.

This year’s theme aimed to communicate a 21st century focus on student learning by addressing social issues such as LGBTQ+ awareness, child abuse, poverty, bullying, drug use, vaping and suicide.

Participants at the summit witnessed the urgent need for social justice amongst young people, especially coming out of COVID. 

Student panelists explained that some parents are choosing not to acknowledge certain issues due to fear or the mentality that “my child is happy, they shouldn’t be having mental issues.” 

However, many of the panelists explained that while many students, teenagers, or young adults, may look strong, they but could be hurting on the inside.

One parent asked the student panel for advice on how to talk to children who don’t want to open up about sensitive topics. The youth panelist suggested that parents engage in enjoyable activities for a more open conversation, emphasizing genuine interest and sacrifice to highlight the child’s significance. According to the panel, prioritizing listening over lecturing can build trust for effective communication.

“We were able to create a quiet environment that was really focused,” said Ornellas. “The parents were really listening and the students, they were honest.”

The summit was partnered with the Hawaii State Teacher’s Association (HSTA). 

“We’re the only island that is doing anything like this,” said Ornellas. The plan for next year is to have even more student leadership in decision making and organizing around the summit.

The summit further showcased a diverse range of student work from across the island, featuring emcees and presenters from the MHS student body. Colton Duvauchelle, a talented student vocalist, delivered two remarkable performances. The MHS Culinary Club catered the event with lunch plates, and various community booths made appearances including UHMC, Police Academy, Recycle Fashion, MC3, WIN Writers, Hae Aloha flags, and Letters to Maui. 



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