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The Makoa Project 2018-01-19T22:29:51-10:00

In 2014, MYFS’ Adolescent Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment Program began partnering with volunteer Autumn Shields for The Makoa Project. The word ‘Makoa’ means strong and/or courageous, and Autumn created this discovery program for teens so they can learn about their authentic selves, realize their true passions and understand how to discover their own unique strong/courageous selves. Autumn meets with our youth and guides them through various activities and exercises to help them realize that they do in fact have gifts that make an exciting future possible.


Hero Exercise:

Autumn asks participants to list attributes of heroes, whether it is a star athlete, a musician they like or even one of their parents. Examples may include faithful, motivator, game changer or helpful.

Once the words are on a large display board, youth are asked to identify which characteristics they see in themselves, which helps them realize they have value and a purpose. It can also help them recognize that just because they have done something wrong or aren’t perfect, there are still wonderful things about them that in the end can outweigh the bad.

So many of these teens are great kids who just made poor choices. By focusing on their positive traits, the youth can work on creating their future instead of attaching themselves to their past.

Your True Passion — What and How :

Autumn starts by saying the following: “Imagine you wake up and are 30 thirty years old. You never had limitations or restrictions regarding education and you could do anything you wanted for a career. What would you do?” For many youth, answering this is difficult because they think that going to college is the only way to be successful, but actually getting a higher education isn’t even a possibility. Or they think they have to be “one-in-a-million” to be lucky enough to have their dream job.

Autumn tries to make things that seem impossible a reality by working with participants to outline specific steps needed to accomplish their goals. She also helps them understand that many career paths don’t necessarily require a 4-year degree. For example, when Anna* expressed that she had always enjoyed playing music, she worked with Autumn and the other youth to brainstorm all the jobs that are available within the music industry, besides just being the super star performer.

Instead of letting this young woman give up because the dream seemed unattainable, Autumn talked to her about what she liked about music and helped her realize that what she would really enjoy is being a producer.

It is all about showing these teens that they have options when it comes to pursuing professional goals, especially those that might align with their personal interests.

Mentoring :

Autumn connects participants with individuals in the community who have followed their own dreams – an award-winning chef, a professional photographer, a glass blowing artist, etc.

For example, Sam* felt he was a good cook but never thought it was possible to be a chef. He assumed he would end up being a prep cook like the rest of his family. Autumn set up a meeting between Sam and Chef Cameron Lewark of Spago at the Four Seasons Resort.

During the meeting, Chef Lewark shared his personal story, what obstacles he faced while growing up and how they led them to where he is today. Chef Lewark also gave Sam advice about how to work his way up in the culinary industry and the specific steps he needs to take to accomplish his goal. During the meeting Sam realized that he possesses the traits needed to be a successful chef, such as being able to manage people while also relating to them. The meeting changed the way Sam thinks about the future because now he can actually envision himself being independent and achieving his dream.

*Name changed for confidentiality

In 2017, Autumn and her business partner Meagan DeGaia launched Makoa Quest — Maui’s only authentic Hawaiian tour company. Makoa Quests are experiential tours, led by Hawaiian cultural practitioners, that immerse individuals in authentic Hawaiian culture. Each Quest ignites a meaningful relationship with the wisdom within Hawaiian way of life. These experiences give you rare access to private land and the true voice of the culture by allowing you to walk in the footsteps of the ancestors and perpetuate Hawaiian culture for the next generation.

A portion of proceeds to Makoa Quest are directed to Maui Youth & Family Services so young people from various MYFS programs can participate in these exciting and unforgettable experiences as part of The Makoa Project!

Click here to learn more about Makoa Quest and to book your adventure!

Want to help?

Thanks to Autumn, her volunteers and support from the community, The Makoa Project is available for FREE to all participants.

If you would like to contribute, please click here to visit MYFS’ Network for Good page and enter “Makoa Project” in the ‘Designation’ section. Or you can call our Development Coordinator at 808-579-8414, ext. 8102

About Autumn: Autumn Shields is an international speaker, coach, entrepreneur and author of “Living Your Life Alive – Learning to Listen and Follow Your Inner Nudge.” After working as a victim advocate director for police departments in Colorado, Autumn became a successful network marketer. This allowed her to move to Maui and start The Makoa Project. She is dedicated to helping others overcome their obstacles, find their true passions and live their life alive.

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