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Graduation showcases creativity of Full Life students


East Hawaii resident Andrew Grove showed off a carton for trinkets, a wooden clock and a customized card box at Wednesday’s graduation celebration at The Makery in Hilo.

With the help of Full Life, a nonprofit organization committed to helping adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, the 28-year-old Hawaii Community College student with Asperger’s syndrome was one of three people whose creativity and ingenuity came to life as part of the group’s first Huahana O Hilo program.

Through a partnership with The Makery, Grove, along with fellow graduates Celena Contreras and Zachary, who preferred his last name not be mentioned, created everything from clocks to Koa-made jewelry with the goal of someday becoming financially independent.

Helping Hawaii residents become financially independent is The Makery’s mission, according to director Dr. Neil Scott who first brought his expertise in technology and design to Hilo in 2013.

According to information provided by Scott, the company’s mission is to offer “products made in Hawaii, by people who live in Hawaii, using environmentally responsible materials and processes.”

Grove said when he first got involved with the program, he was surprised by what all The Makery has to offer.

“I was just blown away with the amount of things you could do,” he said Wednesday while showing off a box he made using a 3-D printer at the facility.

“I encourage others to do it, too. As a hobby, for yourself, or just as an outlet to make an amazing resource,” he said.

The Makery, which is located next to Full Life’s Hilo office, provides access to hand tools, conventional machines, computer aided design programs and computer numerically controlled machines.

The ceremony lasted from 4-5 p.m. with Full Life’s Mar Ortaleza and Executive Director Stone Wolfsong singing the praises of the graduates and Scott’s dedication to providing an outlet for job creation in East Hawaii.

“Dr. Scott knows that our vision for how people that we support can be independent and earn their own living is no longer by sacking groceries. The vision now is to have independent entrepreneurship through huis of diversity.”

Earlier that evening Scott gave a tour of the center that occupies 7,500 square feet at 126 Keawe St. in downtown Hilo.

He stepped into a back room that resembles more of warehouse where stacks of Koa wood and multiple tools and wood-carving machines were scattered throughout the large space.

“This is where the things that they dream up will be made,” he explained.

Scott, who works with the College of Education at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, pointed to the stacks of wood when a smile came across his face.

“All this Koa is waiting to be turned into whatever is inside those guys’ heads,” he said.

For five years he’s been teaching students how to make Hawaiian steal guitars, ukuleles, jewelry and whatever else they can come up with.

Scott’s vision is to give students at The Makery the tools to let their imagination run wild.

“That’s the thing. It’s getting kids to a point where they’re excited and there’s a point that you don’t have to chase them anymore. They’re pushing you,” he said.

He says the shop has infinite potential, with one block of Koa wood being worth $3,000 worth of jewelry.

“I see thousand of potential jobs because Koa is hot stuff,” he said. “It’s the only place in the world where it grows and people love it. There are so many different products.”

Students at The Makery are able to utilize Scott’s machines and have access to materials at a subsidized cost and any products sold go directly to the creators and helps them continue their work at the facility.

“I think it’s important that people realize that this is here to create jobs,” he said. “You’re creating a job and learning unique skills and hopefully it’s something that you’re passionate about.”

Full Life is state and federally funded and offers free services to anyone age 5 and up with developmental disabilities.

For more information about Full Life visit www.fulllifehawaii.org.

For more information about The Makery you can email Scott at ngscott@hawaii.edu or call him at 808-222-2128.