Hawaii Girls Court participants and staff recently spent three days and two nights in Haleakala National Park as part of an immersion program for underserved and at risk youth. Eight participants and four staff members spent June 18-22 at the park’s Summit and Kipahulu Districts during what was described as a transformational experience.
Girls Court, established in 2004 by Oahu Family Court and overseen by Judge Jennifer Chin, has served as a laboratory court to develop and expand gender-specific programming for adolescent girls in the juvenile justice system. Girls Court–one of the only such programs in the nation–focuses on the differing needs of adolescent female offenders who are often victims of physical or sexual abuse or domestic violence.
The Girls Court group, accompanied by female National Park Service and Hawaii Pacific Parks Association staff, spent three days learning about Hawaiian species and ecology, Hawaiian culture and themselves. Many of the girls experienced quiet and solitude for the first time in their lives while camping, viewing the stars from the summit of the volcano and hiking the Pipiwai Trail.
The group camped at Hosmer’s grove on Haleakala, cooking meals together and learning about endangered plants and birds. “We hope to give these girls powerful role models as well as the confidence of knowing they can be successful, even outside of their comfort zones,” said Polly Angelakis, Chief of Interpretation for the park.
In addition to the camping and hiking, the group met the park mule team, interacted with community leaders, and learned about Hawaiian culture and mythology from Hawaiian staff. “They were most excited about seeing Jupiter and the stars, opening their wallets to the full moon, hiking four miles, eating s’mores, waking up early to see the sunrise, and weaving lauhala bracelets and rings,” said Girls Court Program Coordinator Dayna Miyaskai.
Girls Court works on a strength-based model to develop healthy relationships among the girls and their families, return the girls to school or appropriate educational placement, and introduce the girls to employment education and other opportunities in the community. The program has been a successful one, reducing recidivism by 47 percent, which included a 60 percent reduction in the number of runaways, and a 63 percent reduction in arrests, according to Girls Court statistics.
The immersion trip was funded by the National Park Service and included travel expenses from Oahu, backpacking equipment, and food. Support for the trip was also provided by the Hawaii Pacific Parks Association. This is the second year of the program.
Haleakala National Park is committed to supporting youth through the Girls Court immersion program as well as many other education and internship programs. To learn more about these opportunities, visit the park’s webpage. And to learn more about Hawaii Girls Court, visit Girlscourt.org.
Photo courtesy Haleakala National Park