Reflection from Rachel Yuen, Program Specialist


People sometimes ask us, “How worthwhile is the Girls Court Program when it only serves a small number of girls?

Girls Court Program was started as a catalyst and vehicle to develop and expand gender specific programming for girls in the juvenile justice system. Like any new program, it was necessary to start small in order to pilot test the Girls Court concept, learn what works and then expand services.

Relationships are of particular importance to girls. The smaller group size made it possible for more intimacy and the building of healthy relationships between the girls, their families, and staff. Additionally, Girls Court effectively mobilized community support and collaborated with agencies from both the public and private sectors. The result was a successful first cohort. This success led to a successful second year of an expanded number of girls and families served. Currently, Girls Court is continuing to expand its powerful partnerships and through such networking is providing more services and substantially increasing the number of girls and families it serves. Moreover, by catalyzing a change in values, collaborating and building coalitions, the Hawai`i Girls Court is inspiring others to share a vision responsive to the unique, challenging needs of at-risk girls and it also commits our state to youth programs that work with the critical and underserved population of juvenile female offenders.

The following story adapted from the Star Thrower by author Loren Eisley reflects the Girls Court mission.


There was once a wise woman, a writer, who used to go to the ocean to do her writing. She would walk along the beach, gathering her thoughts before she began her writing. One day as she walked along the shore, she saw someone gracefully moving up and down the beach, as if dancing with the waves. She smiled to think that someone would dance to begin the day. As she drew closer, she saw that it was a young woman, and that she was not dancing, but was reaching down to pick up something from the sand, and running to the sea, tossing it gently into the ocean.

As she got closer she called out, “Good morning! What are you doing?”

The young woman stopped, looked up and answered, “I’m throwing starfish back into the ocean?”

“But why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”

The young woman replied, “The sun is coming up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back in, they’ll die.”

“But, young woman don’t you see that there are miles of beach and starfish all along the way? What difference will you make?”

The young woman listened politely, then reaching down and picking up another starfish, ran to the water and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves. “It made a difference to that one.”

Her answer surprised the woman. She didn’t know how to reply and so she turned away to return to her cottage to write.

All that day, even as she wrote, she couldn’t stop thinking about the young woman. The image wouldn’t go away. Finally, late in the afternoon, she realized that she the scientist, the writer had missed the essential lesson of the young woman. She realized that what the young woman was doing was choosing not to be an observer, watching the world pass by, but was choosing to be an actress in the universe and make a difference. She was embarrassed.

That night she went to bed troubled. When morning came, she awoke knowing that she had to do something. So she got up, got dressed, went to the beach and found the young woman. And together, they spent the rest of the morning throwing starfish back in the ocean.

You see, the young woman’s actions represent something special in each one of us. We are all given the ability to make a difference. When we become aware of this gift, we hold the power to shape the future.

Remember: Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.

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