About Opportunity Youth Action Hawaiʻi

A Transformative Indigenous Model to Replace Youth Incarceration

The Opportunity Youth Action Hawaiʻi hui is dedicated to replacing youth incarceration with Indigenous knowledge, values, and practices that empowers communities, trains youth healers, and drives resources to support community-driven and culturally-grounded pu’uhonua, sanctuaries of healing, for opportunity youth.

In the Hawaiian language, Kawailoa translates to the long waters, here referring to the abundant and healing properties of water that feed the soul and nourish wellbeing. The OYAH hui channels these abundant waters of healing to grow a more racially just world where Indigenous youth and families are thriving in healthy, equitable, and culturally rich communities.

OYAH is a consortium of relentlessly committed partners dedicated to reversing racial inequities in Hawai’i’s youth justice system. The youth justice statistics today reflect the efforts of many key stakeholders who worked to reduce youth incarceration by 82% in Hawaiʻi, including the judiciary, family courts, correctional facilities, and Office of Youth Services working alongside community partners.

Racial Equity 2030 Challenge

The efforts of OYAH at the Kawailoa campus were recognized by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Lever for Change as one of five global finalists of the Racial Equity 2030 challenge, an open call for bold solutions to drive an equitable future for children, families, and communities worldwide. The Challenge awarded OYAH a $20 million grant over an eight-year commitment for the project, “Kawailoa: a Transformative Indigenous Model to Replace Youth Incarceration”, to help build and scale actionable ideas for transformative change in the systems and institutions that uphold racial inequities.

Our Partners

The Opportunity Youth Action Hawaiʻi hui is a unique collaboration of state and nonprofit agencies at the Kawailoa Youth and Family Wellness Center, reflecting a central campus as a pu’uhonua, or place of peace, safety, and healing for Hawai’i’s most vulnerable youth and young adults.

The partners of OYAH formally organized in 2020 and share a common vision of transforming the practice of punitive incarceration with an effective system of restorative, culturally grounded, community-based prevention programs rooted in Indigenous knowledge systems and cultural practices where Hawai’i’s youth learn to become healers in their own lives, in their families, and their communities.

Our ecosystem of partners creates a constellation of expertise and resources that build the Kawailoa campus’s culturally-grounded therapeutic system of services by establishing the cultural piko (anchor), weaving the partners together in an ‘aha (cord of strength), redesigning institutional connections, and establishing a hālau (school for collaborative) learning and sharing.

Kawailoa Campus Partners

Residential Youth Services & Empowerment

RYSE is a youth access center and shelter that provides housing, medical and mental, health support, and vocational resources. The shelter serves youth 14-24 and its day program provides a safe space for unhoused youth to receive drop in, basic needs services, 7 days a week.

Kinai ʻEha

Kinai ‘Eha, which means to extinguish pain, provides an alternative education option to ‘opio/youth (14-24) to support purpose, personal empowerment, education, Hawaiian cultural identity and connection, workforce training in construction and the trades, job placement, community service and leadership.

Partners in Development Foundation – Kupa ʻAina Farm

Partners in Development Foundation (PIDF) inspires and equips families and communities for success and service using timeless Native Hawaiian values and traditions. PIDF’s Kupa ‘Aina farming program uses aloha ‘āina (love of the land) to heal youth, families, and communities.

Department of Education – Olomana Youth Center

Olomana School is an alternative education school of the Hawaiʻi Department of Education, offering project-based teaching and learning for students in seventh through twelfth grade, and giving students a fresh start in their learning journey.

State of Hawaiʻi, Office of Youth Services – Hawaiʻi Youth Correctional Facility

Hawai’i Youth Correctional Facility provides trauma-informed care to reform juvenile justice practices as the goal of the Kawailoa Youth and Family Wellness Center. This pu’uhonua, referring to a sacred sanctuary or refuge, reclaims a culturally storied place for those in need of guidance and connection.

We work with many partners outside of the Kawailoa campus that can together support justice-involved and opportunity youth, including:

  • Native Hawaiian and community-based organizations
  • Hawai’i State Department of Education Public Schools
  • Law Enforcement
  • Hawaiʻi State Judiciary
  • Hawai’i State Office of the Public Defender
  • Hawai’i State Department of Health – Child & Adolescent Mental Health Division

“Family Court… share[s] the vision to look to restorative indigenous practices to overcome the racial disparities in the juvenile justice system. Healthy and thriving youth are essential to the overall well-being of our state.”

– Judge Matthew Viola, Senior Family Court Judge

Our partners include:

Voices of Our Community

“From when I was born until I was 15 my only opportunity was to try and survive – I couldn’t focus on school, I couldn’t focus on friends, I could only focus on okay, when is my next meal… Now I know I can control my future. I have the tools: I have a great support system, good friends, good family.”


– M. Morales

Get Involved

Join this work to support opportunity youth in building greater belonging, purpose, community connections, education, workforce readiness and skills to contribute to and lead healthy, thriving families and communities in Hawai’i and beyond.