Maui Teen Expo offers educational, fun environment

Maui Teen Expo offers educational, fun environment

O’ahu reggae band The Green perform a free concert for a mostly teenage audience at the first Maui Teen Expo at Maui Tropical Plantation on Saturday, September 10.

By Kelsie Chong, Features co-editor

With live entertainment, free prizes, local vendors and food booths, many families and teens made their way to Maui Tropical Plantation to attend the first annual Maui Teen Expo.

Funded by the County of Maui, Kiwanis Club International and the Boys and Girls Club of Maui, the drug-, alcohol- and tobacco-free event took place on Saturday, September 10, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The Maui Teen Expo targeted primarily those who were between the ages of 13-20, with many teen-friendly exhibitors.

Some of the representatives at the event were the University of Hawai’i Maui Dental Hygiene Department, the County of Maui, Maui County Police and Fire Departments, the Hawai’i Meth Project, and the MEO Underage Drinking Program. Teens received information along with free pencils, rulers, stickers and bags from the exhibitors.

“The purpose of the event was to promote the prevention of underage drinking,” said event coordinator Toni Rojas. “We wanted to offer a fun day where teens and their families can all come together to one place and get educated.”

The event helped to encourage the young adults who attended to make positive decisions on their own, rejecting drugs and alcohol.

“The theme for this year’s event is Rise up Teens,” said director of operations for the Boys and Girls Club of Maui, Kelly Pearson. Being one of the many innovaters of this event, the idea of the Teen Expo came to be after Pearson noticed that there were already available services for the kupuna and keiki, but there were no events created solely for teens.

Rojas, also the owner of the events coordination and marketing company Sterling Performance Group, served as senior Naomi Holokai’s mentor for her internship.

Holokai, currently in the business academy, shadowed Rojas over a four-month period, helping to plan for the launch of this first teen expo. She described her assigned duties at the event to be, “just the little stuff.”

Holokai helped to make boxes for the coupons, passed out free bottles of water to the exhibitors prior to opening, set up tents and tried to keep herself available for any organizations that needed an extra hand throughout the day. She also attended the board meetings prior to the Teen Expo.

“It was interesting to see how an event is planned,” Holokai said. “Seeing how it developed from nothing to something was cool.”

A featured appearance by the O’ahu reggae band The Green capped off the day.  “The event was set up so teens know the bands, so they would want to come,” Holokai said.

Those coordinating the event chose The Green after conducting a poll asking teens which band they wanted. “We also wanted to showcase local teen bands,” Rojas said. These bands included Righteous Youth, Paukukalo Homestead and 808 Vibez. Teens skanked and took pictures of The Green as they closed their performance with the song “Rootsie Roots.”

The most rewarding part for Rojas was witnessing so many teens at the event. She said that for their first year, she “was glad to see them all here and their interaction with other teens.”

Rojas and Pearson are looking at May 12, 2012, to hold the next Teen Expo. Planning has not yet begun but both hope to see more teens on their committee. Holokai was the only teen this year.

“I plan to go to schools to get more teens on the board,” Pearson said. In the meantime, they want to know what teens are interested in and what they hope to see at the next event.