Ohana of Howard County (OhanaHC) is modeled on the amazing work of Thread (www.Thread.org) founded by Sarah Hemminger, 15 years ago in Baltimore. The name Ohana comes from the Hawaiian culture. In Hawaii, an Ohana describes a person’s social network that includes family and friends. In your Ohana, you have a responsibility to care for them and they have a responsibility to care for you. That is the essence of OhanaHC.
Susan and Steven Porter are the co-founders of OhanaHC and are acting as staff with the support of a core advisory group. Ultimately, OhanaHC will hire an executive director. In early March of 2020, OhanaHC was incorporated and has a board of directors who run the organization.
Ohana starts with 9th graders partly because we are following the Thread model which we know is successful after 15 years. Plus, there are other resources available for younger students (e.g., A-OK Mentoring, etc.). Students in the 9th grade are beginning to have the maturity to understand that if they’re going to take control of their own lives, they need to start now. For many, high school will be their last opportunity to be in a controlled school environment where positive support can really make a difference.
Again, partly because of the Thread model, but it makes sense for life-long change. Too many students graduate from high school, but then don’t know how to move in a meaningful direction, especially if they were not planning on going to college. Those additional six years will take a person through a very vulnerable time in their lives when they’re trying to make it in the world on their own. Ohana will work with them to make sure they have the resources to do that.
The student's parents or guardian will need to sign a permission slip allowing the student to be a part of the program and provide Ohana volunteers access to the student’s academic records. Other than that, they are not expected to participate in the program, however, we would love for them to join us in any way they are comfortable.
No, students are not required to attend college in order to remain in the program.
Each school’s involvement may be a little different. The pilot for 2020-21 will be at Wilde Lake. The Principal, Marcy Leonard, has been involved since the beginning to help us flesh out the initial development of the program. She is also on our board of directors. Wilde Lake is extremely supportive of OhanaHC and is reaching out in many ways to help ensure the success of the program.
Many people create their own extended community families by surrounding themselves with friends, mentors, etc. who help each other. Four to five volunteers will work with each student and become their Ohana.
No! The main requirements are a willingness to work on becoming a consistent and active partner with your student and the other members of your Ohana.
. Minimum one-year commitment
· Participate in training sessions
· Meet with your Ohana as needed
· Meet/talk with your student on your designated day(s)
· Document significant interactions with your student in OhanaHC Google Docs
Since this is a pilot, we’re not certain, but best estimate for time required is one to two hours a week.
This is not one-on-one mentoring—having three other partners in your group to share the responsibilities is enormously helpful and will provide some flexibility for everyone. Generally, only one of the partners (on a rotating basis) will meet with the student in person each week; others may want to check in via text, FaceTime, email, etc. Other needs will arise where a student may need help with something specific and the Ohana will determine who is available to step in.
At times, a member of the Ohana may help to identify a pro bono volunteer to assist with a specific expertise that no one in their Ohana has. Available resources from the school, county and state will be provided to every volunteer, the student and their family. Pro Bono Professionals will also be available as needed.
Volunteers will be trained in late June and July of each year with the goal of developing each Ohana to work with the incoming 9th graders every August. Training will include topics such as diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), communicating with teenagers, Google Docs for reporting and communication, existing resources available to the children and their families, student privacy and social media policy, and working together in small and larger groups.
Background checks will be required of most volunteers at a cost of approximately $35 each. If a volunteer can fund that, great; if not, OhanaHC will cover it.
Some in an Ohana may want to take their student out for a cup of coffee, a slice of pizza, etc.—great activities, but not required. In general, if the Ohana wants to make a small purchase such as tickets to the movies, etc. to celebrate an improved report card, etc., that’s fine (but not required). Costly items are not encouraged and would require permission of the board.
Volunteers must be 18 or older. OhanaHC currently has volunteers ranging from 25 – 70-years-old. However, 18 – 35-year-olds are encouraged to apply. We would love more volunteers from this age group—and so would the students!
Students and volunteers will be expected to honor any commitments that they have made with their Ohana partners and any other OhanaHC volunteers.
No. All volunteers will come with their own cultures, backgrounds, experiences, skills, and personalities. The diversity within each Ohana will provide the foundation for all people within the group (volunteers and students) to learn from each other and develop meaningful, long-term relationships.
Yes, we are still working on finalizing this plan.