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Maui Coalition for Drug-Free Youth Welcomes New Chair

In February 2022, the Maui Coalition for Drug-Free Youth (MCDFY) welcomed a newly-elected Executive Committee! As part of this growth, the Coalition bid a most fond farewell, with heartfelt gratitude, to one long-standing Executive member: Jan Shishido. For nearly ten years, Jan shaped the Coalition into the inclusive, effective, and sustainable community force that it is today. We owe so much to her vision and heart and tireless work for the youth and families of Maui; mahalo Jan! The Coalition’s excellent previous Chair, Kapua Chang, transitioned to the Vice Chair position in order to graciously welcome a new leader, as she takes on new positions on other community boards and a new job. Congratulations Kapua and thank you for staying with us! As the new Chair of MCDFY, we are thrilled to welcome Dustin Kaleiopu. Dustin is currently the Program Coordinator of Maui Economic Opportunity’s (MEO) Underage Drinking Prevention Program, and brings excellent experience and skills to our Coalition’s leadership. 

Dustin was born on Maui and had the privilege of being raised in Lahaina in the same home that both his father and grandfather grew up in. Naturally, he followed in his parents footsteps and graduated from Lahainaluna High School. It was there at Lahainaluna that he found his love for hula and he has been dancing ever since. After graduating in 2015, he has volunteered his time by giving back to the Lahainaluna Hawaiiana Club, working with their hula students. He has been working as a professional hula dancer for six years now, and in 2017, even took the title of Mr. Hula Maui. 

Dustin entered college with the plan of becoming a Hawaiian language teacher. He spent his first two years learning the language and culture and immersing himself in everything Hawaiian. He soon came to realize, however, that he wanted to change direction and pursue an education in nursing. After completing his nurse’s aide certification, he unfortunately needed to take a break from school to care for a sick family member. While doing so, he worked part-time as a home health aide and fell in love with caring for people. 

This led him to a job as a medical assistant at a community health center, which later gave him the opportunity to take a position as a community health worker. There, he had the ability to work with underserved populations in the realm of disease prevention, which motivated him to take his skills in prevention work to a new level. In 2019, he started working in substance abuse prevention with youth in the public school system. He finally found a home at MEO in 2021 as the program coordinator for the underage drinking prevention program, and has loved every minute of it. 

Joining MEO during the pandemic was a great way for Dustin to learn new ways to connect with keiki and their ‘ohana during a time when most of our curriculum was being taught virtually. As restrictions began to subside and they were able to resume in-person meetings with their youth, it became evident that the youth were suffering the effects of social isolation. It also became apparent there were many youth in the community who, just like many adults, were beginning to experiment with substance use as a way to cope with the emotional toll that the pandemic took on them. This encouraged his team to increase our efforts in bringing awareness to the community about the accessibility of alcohol and other substances to Maui’s youth. Much of the work he has done in the last year has been to strengthen the communication between youth and their parents and to increase their protective factors in relation to their risk of substance abuse.

As a community, Maui is special because of the tight-knit relationships that our community members have with each other. Dustin believes that the power of community is the best tool to protect our keiki and encourage them to live healthy, drug and alcohol free lifestyles. He would like to applaud not only his team at MEO, but all of the prevention service providers on Maui that work tirelessly to provide safe, fun, and educational opportunities for our Maui keiki to thrive in living a healthy lifestyle. 

Working with the MCDFY has given Dustin and his team many tools and opportunities to connect with and learn about the community and has given them great support to do the work that we do. Although he initially joined the coalition in 2019 with the previous organization he worked for, it was only in the last year that he began attending regular meetings. He looks forward to working with the organization and our community partners in building off of the great work our community has done thus far to protect our keiki of Maui County.

For more information on the Maui Coalition for Drug-Free Youth contact Ashlee Klemperer at ashlee@hiphi.org and Andrea Snow at andrea@hiphi.org.

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