Larry Sweets grew up on the other side of the train tracks, but being from the ghetto did not discourage Larry from achieving positive endeavors beyond his adverse environment. At a young age, Larry’s mother encouraged him to travel to the city, explaining that he could fit into any group anywhere - just because he was from the ghetto did not mean that he had to act as though he was.
These days Larry is the Youth Specialist at Palama Settlement. Located in lower Kalihi on Vineyard Boulevard, the Palama Settlement facilities include a full-sized gymnasium, swimming pool, youth recreational room and other amenities. Larry explains that most of the youth that frequent Palama Settlement are “beginning at a negative” on societal standards.
Every weekday, Larry coordinates after-school programs for at-risk youth. He believes that by exposing the youth to greater horizons they will be inspired to seek further ventures. Larry provides transportation to select youth to give them the opportunity to explore positive pursuits. A few weekends ago, Larry and three Palama Settlement youth found themselves at KVIBE’s doorsteps.
It was Brandon Soichy (age 13), Ken2 Soichy (age 10), and Theodore Aisek’s (age 11) first visit to the bicycle education warehouse. Patiently waiting for available workstands, each child earned a bicycle at the end of the day. Throughout the process, the Palama Settlement youth learned how to change their own flat tires and could successfully identify basic bicycle components without assistance. They left with more knowledge about bicycles and have conquered a common excuse for not riding a bicycle - flat tires.
Larry believes it is such skills that “give kids opportunities to better themselves in the community and the world.” Perhaps one day the youth of Palama Settlement will find themselves at spring’s Paris–Roubaix road race. After all, bicycles are machines of opportunity.
Palama Settlement | 810 N. Vineyard Boulevard | www.palamasettlement.org