Kali Herrera is the commissioner of youth for Maui County, but how she got there is an inspiring story of persistence and hard work.
Herrera's life hasn't been easy. After a difficult marriage that ended in divorce when she was 35 years old, she took up welding as a way to help feed herself and her two children while also working at a bank during the day.
Her reputation as a bank teller grew as she chased bank robbers to get license plate numbers for the police. This five-foot tall superwoman figured she better learn how to defend herself, so she took up martial arts. She excelled at the practice, winning several competitions--all while working at her banker's position for 16 years.
Kali Herrera teaches children proper attitude and healthy habits at her new studio in Kihei.
Originally from the Philippines, she moved to California and then to Maui in 2003. Her passion for martial arts training and her strong discipline won her dozens of awards and trophies, and a world championship in California in 1987.
As a single mother, raising two young boys wasn't easy, but her sons grew to become responsible Americans. Serving in the U.S. Air Force, they were deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Her oldest son, Dalston, is a captain and has three children. Her second son, Aaron, is a sergeant and boom operator.
Herrera's passion has always been children. She raised her own with the proper ethics to teach them healthy habits, or as she calls it, "My ABCs--attitude, behavior and character."
In order to expand her teaching to others, she now has taken the big plunge.
"I've always wanted my own place to teach children proper attitude and healthy habits," she said. "
So she opened up a storefront in Kihei in the Island Surf Building on the ground floor where she conducts classes for boys and girls from ages 5 to 12. The classes are a safe place for children to learn the discipline to succeed in life--and to reap the healthy benefits from the exercises she teaches. The cost is only $12 to $15, depending on the class.
Her nonprofit is called the Exergy35 Edutainment Productions--an organization promoting wellness, fitness, respect and confidence for all children on Maui.
Once parents observe very positive changes in their children, they rave about the experience to other parents.
Sandy Good, the mother of a young girl who is one of Herrera's students, said, "The difference in my daughter is amazing. She has a lot more confidence and focus and is doing much better in school."
"The school is a safe place to learn and build character," said Herrera, who recently taught and directed 24 students in an awards ceremony at Kihei Elementary School. "I only had a few days to prepare them for a special ribbon dance, which they performed very nicely. It proved to me that what I teach can be learned quite quickly."
Some of the activities Herrera teaches her students are stretching, cardio, creative movement and mindfulness of what they eat.
She conducts programs at various locations, but her new studio in the Island Surf Building is where she prefers to teach.
"I'm so grateful where I am," she said. "It has always been my dream to have my own studio and to teach the keiki on Maui."
Everything would be perfect if it wasn't for the sad news she just received from her oldest son about her one-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, who was recently diagnosed with Angelman syndrome--a rare neurological disease that will affect the child for her entire life.
"I cry when I think of how it has affected our entire family," said Herrera. "But it is simply just one more challenge in life that you leave to God."
If you have a child who wants or needs a positive, life-changing transformation, call Herrera at (808) 357-0660.
Stop by Maui Mall in Kahului on Saturday, July 14, to catch her live performance at 10:15 a.m. You'll be amazed, entertained and inspired.