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  Free To Grow
  Mailman School
  of Public Health
  Columbia University
  722 West 168th Street,
  8th Floor
  New York, NY 10032

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NOTE: as of April 17, 2007, the Free to Grow program has closed.
Grantee Profiles

Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc.

Organization Name Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc., Head Start
State Hawaii
Program Profile

The target area for Maui Economic Opportunity Head Start's Free To Grow (FTG) project  is Wailuku, which includes two low-income housing complexes, a large elementary school, a prison, and a homeless shelter.  Wailuku has the highest reported rates of child abuse and domestic abuse in Maui County and alcohol and methamphetamine abuse.  The cultural norm is to include alcohol in all celebrations, including baby's first birthday luau.  Friday's Pau Hana is a celebration of the end of the workweek and the beginning of the weekend. People celebrate these Friday nights with parties and alcohol.  

FTG will work collaboratively within the ‘Ohana concept  -- the extended family network that exists in traditional Hawaiian culture -- to build drug-free community and school partnerships.  The ‘Ohana philosophy is that it "takes a village to raise a child."  ‘Ohana includes grandparents, other relatives, and other friends in the community.  Although FTG will specifically focus on the relevant needs of parents and children, many extended family members may also receive services.  The community has a strong sense of family (the ‘Ohana concept) and families trust that their ‘ohana will assist them when they are in need.  This assistance can include child-care, housing, and/or financial help. 

FTG's Governance Team includes representatives from the Department of Education, a substance abuse treatment program, the prison warden, a representative of Maui County, a representative of the Homeless Resource Shelter and Public Housing areas.  Both the community and the school are strong FTG partners.  The community is ready to confront the substance abuse epidemic that threatens its stability and lives of its children; elementary school administration recognizes that students' scores are low and parents are not involved enough with their children's education.  The prison warden views FTG as an opportunity to address the reintegration of inmates into the community.

For more information, contact Lyn McNeff at (808) 249-2988 or via email at

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copyright 2008 Free To Grow
Free To Grow is a national program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.