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Molokaʻi Photovoice Collaboration: Exploring Local Hotspots and Problem Areas

Just days after the end of the school year, ten students from Molokaʻi High School dedicated their Saturday to collaborating with the Maui Nui Youth Council to utilize the process of Photovoice and Community Mapping to explore and discuss substance use behaviors of youth and adults within the community. Photovoice is a process by which the youth go out into the community and take photos of concerns in their community, write a brief reflection on the photo and why it concerns them, and then publicly display the images in areas across the community to raise awareness on the issues surfaced by youth. 

After examining local- and state-level data on youth substance use and engaging in dynamic discussions, all youth in attendance agreed that Molokaʻi and the entire county of Maui are experiencing a severe problem with underage drinking and youth substance use. Students also highlighted that substance use among adults significantly impacts their lives. 

Using community mapping, students drew maps of local areas known to be popular for underage drinking, vaping, or the use of marijuana. Working in small groups, they each focused on a different substance – vaping, marijuana, and alcohol – and identified hot spots where these behaviors are most prevalent. Youth discussed how socially acceptable substance use is in these areas and how enforcement is challenging. They also shared how they would utilize these public spaces more if these behaviors were to change. 

Youth also identified challenges with addressing substance use issues in a small community. Students shared that many adults in the community may not be open to discussing the topic, and their peers might have negative responses. They agreed that the community would greatly benefit from learning about this issue, seeing the data, and discussing the impacts of the hot spots and public use. However, students did acknowledge that the community may not be ready to have those discussions yet. Youth believe that beginning to educate their peers about the issue might be the best way to shift community readiness.

The community mapping process supported youth in sharing their voices and lived experiences. The opportunity for Maui and Molokaʻi youth to collaborate and work together was a major highlight for all participants and hopefully the beginning of a long-standing partnership. All youth attendees agreed the issue is critical and requires much more work to be properly addressed. Youth also expressed an interest in continuing the project into the next school year, when they will have a greater capacity to share their findings and experiences with the entire community.

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