ANAHOLA — A Kaua‘i High School senior is educating the island’s youth about the dangers of fentanyl with the help of the nonprofit Keala Foundation.
The Keala Foundation provides workout opportunities for kids across the island to give them a safe place to go. Jadyn Naka‘ahiki joined in elementary school as she watched drug addiction rattle her family. Now that she is older, she sees the negative impact drugs have on her friends and community.
“A lot of kids, their parents are involved in that kind of thing and then they get involved with that kind of thing,” she said. “It just kind of turns their whole life into a whole big issue.”
As counterfeit drugs laced with lethal amounts of fentanyl started making headlines last year, Naka‘ahiki worried about the consequences in her community. “Not very many people at the school, or people in general, know what fentanyl is and what it does.”
Illegal fentanyl is either intentionally ingested or is laced in batches of other drugs, such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, according to a press release from the Kaua‘i Police Department. On Kaua‘i, it has most commonly been found in pills and has been linked to multiple deaths.
As a member of the student council, Naka‘ahiki had been working on a campaign to educate students about the dangers of vaping and saw a need to do something similar for fentanyl. She proposed the idea to the Keala Foundation in the fall.
“If our kids need help, we’re there 100%,” said Keala Foundation Founder Aaron Hoff.
Naka‘ahiki has coordinated 40 fentanyl presentations with the foundation at Kaua‘i High School, and has led two.
The work continues as Naka‘ahiki pushes for the programming to reach the rest of her school and others across the island.
On Feb. 4, Hoff and counselor Billy Querto presented at Kanuikapono Public Charter School in Anahola.
Hoff candidly told the students of his own experiences growing up on Kaua‘i surrounded by drugs, and how he himself was trapped by addiction.
“The majority of our environment, you know, people smoke, we drink, and it’s normal,” Hoff said. “Y’all see it all the time, nah?”
Hoff and Querto showed students a film, “Dead on Arrival,” which features dramatized footage of drug overdoses punctuated by interviews of parents whose children died after the consuming counterfeit drugs laced with fentanyl.
After the film, Quarto told his own story of ending up in the hospital after overdosing.
Just like he went full in to help Naka‘ahiki with her goal to provide fentanyl education, Hoff extended an offer to be there for the students.
“If there’s ever something you need, like you want help with to be successful, I’m a resource, and I’ll make it happen for you,” he said.
After the presentation, Hoff and Querto lingered outside. As the students were dismissed, many stopped by to check in and talk story, expressing that they felt supported and not shamed by the presentation, which was exactly what Jadyn had in mind when she first proposed the project.
Source: The Garden Island