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Building brighter futures for Maui youths

Future Grindz launches 8-week pilot program

All Kaina Grindz food truck chef and owner Tanya Doyle cooks up a loco moco on Friday afternoon in Pukalani. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

PUKALANI — Two entrepreneurs’ passion to prepare Maui youths for a successful and sustainable future on the island led to the creation of Future Grindz.

All Kaina Grindz food truck owner Tanya Doyle and King Kekaulike High School culinary teacher Carmen Kubas partnered to create the eight-week program that offers teens entry-level job skills, food security education and community service opportunities.

“Children are our future. If we don’t teach them how to be sustainable, both in a job and in their community, then we’re all going to go down, and so we have to take the time for them to become adults that we all need them to be,” Kubas said Friday afternoon at the Kulamalu Town Center in Pukalani. “On the micro level, every single one of them has a gift, and so we’re working on training them to find their sole practice, what their desire is.

“Every human has a gift, and we need to help them find that gift.”

Doyle and Kubas launched the Future Grindz summer pilot program June 1 for their five apprentices. The program highlights four core components: wellness, professional development, sustainable agriculture and community service.

Diyani DeCambra takes a customer’s order at All Kaina Grindz in Pukalani on Friday afternoon. DeCambra is a rising senior at King Kekaulike High School. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

As part of Future Grindz, the students volunteer with Doyle’s All Kaina Grindz food truck, cooking and serving about 1,000 free homestyle meals to Upcountry kupuna and families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday afternoons.

“If I see a need, I fill the need the best I possibly can,” Doyle said while taking a break. “I want them to understand how important it is to make sure you acknowledge what your community needs. Every single one of us makes a difference.”

The Future Grindz team meets virtually Mondays for development education. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, a few Upcountry kids meet with Kubas for yoga and fitness training as part of the wellness component. Thursdays include more yoga, professional development and meal prep for All Kaina Grindz, and Fridays involve hands-on culinary and general job training at the food truck. They also meet again Saturdays for additional personal development.

“They really help us stay on track and teach us how it really is to be in a kitchen,” said Brianna Ibarra, who is heading into her final year at King Kekaulike. “I’ve enjoyed working with my friends, and I can learn job experience for future jobs, and I can put that on a resume.”

This week, the students were seen taking turns filling different roles inside the food truck — running the register and the food line, plating, washing dishes and communicating with customers.

Carmen Kubas, co-founder of Future Grindz, is a Kekaulike High School culinary teacher. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The apprentices also are learning how to operate a business under state and county health and safety protocols, such as wearing masks, social distancing and sanitizing in the workplace.

“I’ve learned more life skills and how I can prepare myself in life, not only in the culinary industry,” King Kekaulike junior Waianuhea Doyle said Friday.

This includes having a good system set up and everything organized, she said. “I’ve enjoyed building relationships and helping out my community and giving back.”

Each week, Kubas said that students write about their strengths and weaknesses, ideas, plans of action and personal reflections from each of the four core program areas. Kubas and Doyle provide guidance and evaluation along the way.

“In the short pilot program, we’re hitting as much as we can,” Kubas said. “When they finish this, they will have to present their three-month, sixth-month development plan to a panel of stakeholders.”

Tanya Doyle’s delicious loco moco. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

With Future Grindz, Doyle and Kubas said that they want to provide the apprentices with the skills and tools needed to live sustainably and comfortably in their hometowns on Maui after graduating high school. And if a student decides to move away, they will have the education and skills needed to come back if they desire.

Oftentimes, Hawaii’s youths leave the state for college, a job opportunity or a new adventure. Those who want to return are sometimes unable to because of the high cost of living and the challenges with navigating the job market and managing expenses, Doyle said.

“Do we want you to travel the world? Absolutely. We just want them to understand how they can come back home and how to take care of it,” she said. “They are Maui’s future. You just need to understand what it takes to sustain yourself, to sustain your islands.”

For the professional development component, Doyle and Kubas educate teens on how to be accountable and responsible inside and outside of the workplace, while also balancing their overall well being.

At the end of the eight weeks, each student receives a $500 stipend for their successful completion of the summer program, which is another opportunity for the youths to learn about personal finances, such as how to open a bank account for the stipend and to manage expenses, Kubas said.

“I’m trying to grow entrepreneurs and leaders that can make the right decisions when they reach that level. I want them to make sure that they know the people come first and the money follows, and they can live the life they want,” Doyle said. “I don’t want them struggling because there’s no understanding of how to do things in the work system.”

The veteran food professionals said they have tried over the past two years to collaborate with schools and bring firsthand job training to Upcountry teens, but kept running into obstacles.

The pandemic opened doors to create Future Grindz, the co-founders said.

Drawing from her time as an executive chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, Doyle connected with Director of Restaurants Michael Clark, Executive Sous Chef Meredith Manee, Food and Beverage Manager Jana Arai and Bella Toland, The Banyan Tree chef de cuisine, to help mentor the students.

Before becoming a public school teacher, Kubas founded and operated Lightfoot Industries Inc., a food-based work and life-skills academy for at-risk teens in California. She brought that same vision to Maui.

From there, a few King Kekaulike students and their friends were brought on board as volunteers to help serve meals Fridays at the All Kaina Grindz food truck.

Free Meals Friday began to take shape over time, and local entrepreneurs and professionals from Leekam Lunchwagon, The Ritz-Carlton, Rodeo General Store, Maui Rapid Response and the Na Hoaloha program have been offering food donations and education.

Doyle and Kubas used the momentum to create the summer pilot program Future Grindz in June.

“We’re trying to learn what we want to do when we get older, because it’s easy to say what you want to do, but actually doing it is different, so we’re actually taking the steps toward learning what we want to do,” Baldwin sophomore Shae Cardoza said toward the end of the shift Friday.

King Kekaulike senior Diyani DeCambra added that they are “also making that community connection and how to run a business that you’re interested in or just trying to get you ready for after high school.”

Kalama Intermediate School 8th grader Pono Lee, the youngest of the group, is getting a head start on how to operate in the workplace.

“I like how we’re a little family together,” he said.

In the first few weeks of the pilot program, Lee said he’s learned how to be more focused, calm and how to have fun.

“It gives me an opportunity to help others that are in need,” he said. “The second thing is, I like the adventures we’re going through, the friendships and bonds we’re making, it’s very fun.”

The co-founders said that the long-term vision for Future Grindz is growing to become an after-school academy for Upcountry high school sophomores, juniors and seniors in classes with up to 50 students at a time, where entry-level work and entrepreneurial and life-skills are taught through the lens of Hawaiian cultural values.

The biggest challenge has been finding a facility big enough to host larger groups. They have had to turn away some students.

Five students is manageable as a start, Kubas said. Further down the line, the co-founders’ dream is to offer Future Grindz in every Valley Isle school district as a three-year academy.

“We want to build it, make it strong and then have people who are willing to come aboard, and we can grow it with them,” Doyle said.

Future Grindz is accepting donations for the Free Meals Friday, pilot program stipends and project start-up costs, including incorporating their own 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The program is also launching fundraisers.

For more information, visit the organization on Facebook and Instagram at @futuregrindz or contact Kubas and Doyle directly by email at futuregrindz@gmail.com. They also have a GoFundMe page.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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