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Pacific Islander conference brings Utah parents together

By KSL.com  |  Posted Sep 21st, 2011 @ 10:16pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — All week KSL News has explored the dimensions and shared profiles from the Polynesian community as part of Project Utah: Island Roots.

Now we conclude our series with highlights from a Pacific Islander conference in Salt Lake City, which was organized to give parents tools to help their children navigate the future.

The event, held at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, was sponsored by the Deseret News. Break-out sessions gave parents the opportunity to learn about youth challenges and education.

It was also a reunion for many in the tight-knit Pacific Islander community.

"There is no distance. Even if it's non-blood related, it becomes relatives no matter what," said Paea Olah.

"I have to take the best of both worlds and teach it to my children," Loni Mauga said.

"By having these kind of events helps us maybe learn certain things that we need to do to navigate our way through that and make the transition easier," said Fotu Katoa.

A Pacific Islander youth in Utah, according to a survey of student health and risk prevention indicators, is far more likely to use tobacco and smoke marijuana than same aged peers. Moreover, they're more likely to have shown up to school drunk or high, more likely to have been arrested and attacked someone with the intent of seriously harming them, according to the 2009 Student Health and Risk Prevention survey.

"Not being able to be who you are and being able to express your culture is really difficult for the youth," Shahara Tiatia said.

But while they are at risk in certain areas, the SHARP survey also pointed out most kids come from stable families and have a lot of support from extended family and friends — and that's the key to helping them.

Many who participated Wednesday night said the gathering helped them feel united. If you couldn't make it to the conference, don't worry. You can watch it next week on Comcast.

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Written with contributions from Candice Madsen, Marjorie Cortez and Vai Sikahema.

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