LAHAINA - According to the latest statistics, only 22 percent of young people have a working knowledge of civics.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) and Close Up Foundation are tackling this issue head-on.
More than 700 military-connected youth - including Boys & Girls Clubs of Maui, Lahaina Club members Malama Cabagua, Mikela Cabagua and Austin Arakawa - and their mentors convened in Washington, D.C., the week of June 24-27 to take a deep dive into the democratic process.
Boys and Girls Clubs of Maui, Lahaina Clubhouse Teen members recently met U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.
This unique and innovative program provided a chance for five local Boys & Girls Clubs of Maui members and their mentor to join young people from 40 other Boys & Girls Club military-affiliated youth programs and organizations located on or near military installations across the country in Washington D.C. to develop the skills and attitudes necessary to become active and engaged citizens.
The program also allowed young people to share and honor the service and sacrifice their families make on behalf of the nation.
The three Lahaina Club members and Makawao Club members Serena Angel and Colby Hanley were escorted by Makawao Club Director Lisa Rodrigues to Washington, D.C., where they had the opportunity of a lifetime.
According to 15-year-old Malama, "My trip to Washington, D.C., was the best experience I could ever have. I got to meet Senator Inouye and got the opportunity to give him a Boys and Girls Clubs of America pin and place it on his coat.
"I also learned that you can do anything, no matter where you start from. Finally, I was proud to thank Senator Inouye for serving our country in the military. I, myself, had an amazing time and learned many things on this trip to Washington, D.C."
"Our goal at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Maui is to create hope and opportunities for our Maui kids. This partnership with Close Up is yet another way the BGCM used its national affiliation to reward some local members and broaden their horizons," said Colin Hanlon, chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Maui.
Participants learned and practiced the habits of active, effective citizenship, with an emphasis on how to articulate their own viewpoints and listen respectfully to those of others.
The three-day inaugural effort included discussions of policy issues important to military families; thematic memorial and monument study visits; issue-based workshops; a comprehensive Capitol Hill series, including preparation and meetings with members of Congress; legislative simulations; seminars and onsite visits to government agencies, non-governmental organizations and embassies; and study visits of neighborhoods in Washington, D.C.
"For 40 years, Close Up has been teaching young people how to be active citizens, and we are pleased to partner with Boys & Girls Clubs to offer this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for children of military families," said Timothy S. Davis, president and CEO of Close Up.
"More than most, these young people know that protecting a democratic way of life requires sacrifice, and this program will give them the opportunity to learn more about public policy and active citizenship."
As part of the four-day experience, all 700 youth and mentors in attendance will develop Community Action Plans to address issues back home in their communities.
"We are honored to have military youth at this year's Youth Leadership Mentoring Camp," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy Robert L. Gordon III.
"Our military youth have faced many challenges in nearly ten years of war, and they have demonstrated their resilience, leadership and other unique skills time and time again. This year's camp will be instrumental to their continued personal and professional development as 21st century leaders and citizens."