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Opportunity Knocks for Makaha Family

There was a knock on a Mākaha family’s door one day. Community recruiters Saydee Pojas and Lita Westbrook from INPEACE’s Hōʻala program were calling, spreading the word about the many valuable resources that were available to families with children zero through five years.

Leo Poti and his girlfriend Michelle Szadkowski have a 4-year-old son named Sairus. The community recruiters spoke with Michelle about INPEACE’s Keiki Steps program to help prepare Sairus for preschool. At the time of this first meeting, both parents were stay-at-home parents caring for their then 3-year-old son. Michelle and Sairus began the process of enrolling in the Keiki Steps program, but Michelle got a job and could no longer commit to the time required for parent participation.

Hōʻala community recruiters offered other options, such as applying for assistance through the federal Race to the Top (RTTT) program, which was designed to spur innovation and reforms in state and local district preschool through 12th grade education. Since Michelle started working, community recruiters met with Leo to discuss the RTTT and Waiʻanae Early Childhood Education Service (WECES) programs, and helped him fill out the appropriate forms for both programs.

At times, the application process can be tedious. However, Hōʻala community recruiters are steadfast in their determination to educate Leeward Coast families about all their options and support them as needed. Since Michelle could not answer her personal phone at work, she had to communicate with community recruiters via text messages. After three visits with Leo and numerous text communications with Michelle, the enrollment forms were complete and the community recruiters were able to submit them.

Six months after that first knock on the door, the Poti-Szadkowski family had received RTTT funding and Sairus began attending preschool at Waiʻanae Early Education Center. Michelle could continue working, and Leo could continue taking college courses. He studied at home, while son Sairus was on his way to an enriching learning experience. The family as a whole improved their quality of life.

When Hōʻala community recruiters come knocking on your door, welcome them in and see the possibilities that can arise. Call 696-9300 for more information.

About Hōʻala

INPEACE’s Hōʻala program brings Native Hawaiian families with children through age five, information and guidance about early childhood education programs. Hōʻala strengthens family engagement by linking parents to community resources and providing access to learning and care. Families receive free guidance through home visits, to help their keiki reach their potential, are connected with comprehensive services and support and are assisted in preparing their keiki for future success in school.