Updated: November 30, 2023
MEO Youth Services and their young volunteers have been selected by the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation, Highways Maui District to receive the Nō Ka ʻOi Highway Hui Award for their contributions to Maui’s Adopt-A-Highway public service program.
Part of the nonprofit Maui Economic Opportunity, MEO Youth Services provides a range of services to support and help protect teenagers in Maui County including programs focused on preventing underage drinking, drug abuse, vaping, bullying and suicide.
For MEO Youth Services, Adopt-A-Highway has not only helped their youth groups learn about the value of community service, it’s aided the agency’s efforts to raise awareness among students about substance abuse prevention.
“During our Adopt-A-Highway cleanups, we separate the trash to create piles of cigarette butts, vaping products, and alcohol-related trash like beer cans and bottle caps,” said Dane Ka‘ae, MEO Youth Services program director. “Later on, we’ll use these collections as visual aids for our presentations centered around preventing these behaviors in our youth. I would say we have collected upwards of tens of thousands of cigarette butts that we use in our anti-smoking campaigns.”
Ka‘ae added that their youth groups also participate in beach and park cleanups, often putting “their heart and soul into cleaning these areas.”
“It’s great to see the kids get recognized for all the hard work they have done for Adopt-A-Highway over the years,” Ka‘ae said. “It’s awesome for them to see that their hard work is paying off and people are recognizing their work and that it’s making a difference in the community.”
Ty Fukuroku, program manager of Environmental Management, Highways Maui district, said, “Adopt-A-Highway is largely focused on reducing pollution and protecting the environment, and it was terrific to learn about how MEO Youth Services additionally utilizes Adopt-A-Highway to support their own important mission.”
Since 2016, MEO Youth Services has adopted a section of Maui Veterans Highway between mileposts 0 and 2, near Zippy’s and Chick-fil-A.
On average, the agency organizes 25 volunteers per cleanup – many of them from their youth groups – who remove some 20 bags of trash from each event. The organization has consistently reported its cleanup data to Highways Maui District.