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Finding your 'Mana': Helping struggling minors get back on their feet

Mana Youth Services is a non-profit helping troubled youth get back on their feet in the Treasure Valley. The founders of Mana, Harland and Jennifer Ah You, are this month's recipients of a $500 Pay It Forward from Mountain America Credit Union.

Mana takes in teenagers who have "aged out" of foster care or the juvenile justice system. At 18, these are kids entering the adult world with little support and no family.

The Mana staff helps them find a job and a place to live. Beyond that, they try to give them a sense of belonging. The Ah You's, who were both born and raised on Ohau, consider the youth they welcome through their door to be "Ohana" -- family.

"They come with a lot of issues that have happened in their lives," said Harland Ah You. Jennifer adds, "Our goal is that they won't ever need us again, but if they want us we'll be here."

"I absolutely love it," said Jerry Lilly, the Clinical Director at Mana. He said the Ah You's "Island ways" make them a good fit for the teens. "They just have this thing about them. It's kinda infectious and everybody feels it when they walk in here. We're real family oriented and everybody knows everybody and I think that's really valuable for these kids to see."

The name of the non-profit is also taken from the Hawaiian language. Harland explains that "Mana" means life force, power and strength.

"It doesn't mean you have to be the biggest person or the strongest person," Harland said. "But you have the opportunity to identify with what's in your heart and be able to project that in a positive manner. We're hoping that the culture we come from and the way that we share our mana ... They'll be able to find a way to express their mana."

Do you know someone doing good in the Treasure Valley? Nominate them for a Pay It Forward!

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