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Indomitable Interns

Teens and community employers team up.

November 19, 2009
Crissa Hiranaga

Maui teen Leicey Silva is certainly not short on ambition. Joining the class of 2009, Silva graduated a year early from King Kekaulike High School, and was ready to dive into an internship. A self-described “energetic people-person,” Silva said she’s long been interested in going into the physical therapy field, but her physical limitations prevent her from doing certain tasks.

“I have Osteogenesis Imperfecta [Brittle Bone Disease],” explained Silva. “Instead of having a 17-year-old’s bones, I have an 80-year-old’s.”

Being recognized as work-ready by her school and the state’s vocational rehabilitation department, Silva had the good fortune of being matched with Job Coach Bill Prucha. Prucha helps young adults with various challenges connect with employers to develop job skills, and for Leicey, he found a perfect match at Therapeutic Associates of Maui. There, Occupational Therapist John Mizoguchi and Office Manager Diane Omura took Leicey under their wings.

Article Photos

Kleint Flores interned with Steven and Alexis Dascoulias at the historic ‘Īao Theater.

“It was an easy connection—Leicey’s personality, her drive, her focus,” Prucha explained. “She fit in well here with John and Diane’s openness and willingness to give people a chance.”

Under the guidance of Mizoguchi and Omura, Silva took a serious interest in pursuing occupational therapy, and will continue her education at the college level with the ultimate goal of becoming a pediatric occupational therapist. Mizoguchi provided Silva with learning tools and played an active role in her internship.

“She is doing a lot of administrative work but is also learning the aspects of being an occupational therapist,” Mizoguchi reported last summer. And he sees great potential in Leicy’s future. “Her condition has made her more perceptive to looking at gait patterns, for example. Her perception is keener than most.”

A similar success story is told through another well-matched student-employer team.

“Matthew was about one of five students who wanted to work out of a large group of students,” Prucha said of Baldwin High School graduate Matthew De La Cruz. “Matthew’s challenges are very different from Leicey’s. Matthew has a good heart but is still working on communication and body awareness, for example… This program serves a whole variety of people who have special needs in some way.”

Taking De La Cruz’s propensity for numbers and his extraordinary memorization skills into consideration, a connection was made with Hawai‘i Stage & Lighting Rentals for the internship.

De La Cruz was Bonnie Prucha’s first intern and helped with the necessary tasks: maintaining equipment, doing inventory and cleaning. “It’s been great to have someone who’s so eager to learn,” said Bonnie. “He’s been very helpful.”

The warehouse work also benefited De La Cruz, as his favorite duties are counting and lifting. His newfound job skills even spilled over to his personal life, and now that he is more comfortable in his body, he is even working out. His communications skills have also improved.

“Matthew was extremely shy, but has been able to get beyond that,” said Prucha. “I give credit to Matthew and Bonnie both for working together patiently.”

A third employer-teen triumph tale is a union between Maui OnStage at ‘Īao Theater and Baldwin High Schooler Kleint Flores. Again, Prucha found a compatible match for a quiet student to develop job skills with a community-minded Maui employer. And the timing couldn’t have been better.

“Through the generosity of the county, we’ve had the opportunity to improve the building,” said Flores’s mentor, Production and Facilities Manager Steven Dascoulias. “There have been all sorts of things that Kleint has worked on. His tasks included many of the things that help to make visiting the ‘Īao a pleasant experience.”

Flores honed construction skills through set building and painting. He also enjoyed different cleaning projects, and said that the job has helped him build his communication skills.

Flores is still in high school, so his work plans differ from graduates Silva and De La Cruz. He’d like to continue his journey with Maui OnStage with community work-study, if possible.

“It’s a great place to work,” said Flores.

The feeling is mutual.

“There’s a great thing going on here,” said Maui OnStage Exective Director Alexis Dascoulias, of the relationship with their first vocational intern.



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