Adult Friends for Youth (AFY), a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, has been providing therapeutic prevention and mental health programs for high-risk youth for more than 20 years.
The mission of AFY is to enhance the potential for all youth to achieve a rewarding life and become productive members of society. "They've made some really valuable contributions in helping address...the issue of gangs and gang intervention. I think that they have carved out a niche in Hawaii of doing things Hawaii-style in a manner that is less threatening." (Sharon Agnew, former executive director of Hawaii's Office of Youth Services)
To break the cycle of violence, despair, and unhealthy lifestyles that are often passed down from generation to generation, AFY has developed an effective therapeutic approach (the Redirectional Therapy) to combat violence, drugs, crime, teen pregnancy, family dysfunction, learning disabilities, and anti-social behavior among the very high-risk youth, both in and outside of the classroom. AFY recognizes the importance of reaching teens with problems and helping them become successful people.
"AFY has been very instrumental in reducing the temptation for kids to become involved in gangs and it has also been very helpful to the (Department of Education) and the schools in assisting or preventing gang and youth violence." (U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo)
AFY reaches 400 plus high-risk youth per week, providing a variety of protective factors that may be lacking in the lives of troubled youth. The Hawaii Psychological Association (HPA) recognized AFY in November 2006, awarding the agency with the Pookela Award for excellence in promoting educational achievement and offering a prescription of hope for significantly reducing poverty and destructive behaviors among youth gang members.
To date, AFY has successfully changed the attitudes and behaviors of over 30 entire gangs, helping most members integrate into the social mainstream as productive members of the community. Most members of these groups have progressed from angry, violent, and anti-social people to individuals who are participatory, enterprising, and law-abiding. "The agency works with youths in an uncommon way. They've been very successful in redirecting kids." (Catherine Payne, principal of Farrington High School)
AFY's multi-pronged approach and programs include:
School Centered Program. Provides group psychotherapy and counseling to troubled students within their school settings. Students are referred by counselors, teachers, and principals.
Neighborhood Centered Program. AFY's gang therapy program. It is Hawaii's only program that assists youth gangs as whole entities and the only gang program in the United States with a replicable therapeutic methodology.
Clinical Competency-Based Alternative Education. Builds on the school and neighborhood programs, and helps school dropouts obtain a high school diploma.
Student Anti-Bullying and Violence Convention. The convention is devoted towards educating students about the effects and consequences of bullying, and to encourage all students to show respect, empathy, compassion, love and acceptance toward others.
International 7-Aside Rugby Tournament. AFY also provides cultural experiences to youth of Pacific island backgrounds. Athletics, including the fast and esciting 7-aside rugby, offer an outlet for pent-up energy and a diversion from the monotony of must hanging out.