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Honolulu gets Micronesian and Pacific islander youth center

July 6, 2021 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — A nonprofit organization that serves and advocates for the Micronesian and Pacific islander communities in Hawaii plans to open a youth center in Honolulu this month.

The center will offer college and career prep, cultural exhibitions, mentorship programs and study areas, We Are Oceania CEO Josie Howard told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. It will have resources for homeless youth and families, she said.

“Just like a home means everything to a family, this center will be the same,” Howard said. “It’s a place where they can come and seek help. Somebody is there to help, and somebody is there who understands them.”

The Youth Empowerment Center is the first of its kind for We Are Oceania. It’s located inside a former American Savings Bank branch in Liliha. The bank offered the space to the nonprofit rent-free.

University of Hawaii at Manoa undergraduate K-nard Narruhn, who is Chuukese, is recruiting youth mentors for the center and is excited to continue working as one himself.

The 22-year-old from Pearl City helps organize and run We Are Oceania’s food drives, vaccination clinics, translation services and unemployment and housing support.

He remembers getting help from We Are Oceania himself after he dropped out of high school and was going from job to job feeling unfulfilled.

Thanks to college fairs, campus visits, mentorship and financial aid help, Narruhn earned his high school equivalency diploma and enrolled in the University of Hawaii at Hilo. There he went from being a high school dropout to making the dean’s list. He later transferred to Manoa.

“It’s a surreal experience. It’s crazy how I was on the other end getting counseling and help, and now I’m on this end giving back,” he said. “It feels right to me.”