Meet Hugo House’s new youth programs coordinator, Keliko Adams. Keliko is an educator, artist, bibliophile, and pit bull enthusiast. She has been working with youth and for youth for over 20 years in Hawaii (her home); Albuquerque; Washington, D.C.; Japan; and the Pacific Northwest.
We recently caught up with Keliko to learn more about her, what she’s looking forward to about working with youth at Hugo House, and some of her favorite books for teens and children.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a true Gemini – many dualisms exist within me. And I can be a bit moody, which I blame on my sign 🙂
I am from a multiracial family – this has heavily shaped my development and relationships.
I was raised Buddhist, and this has also shaped my moral and philosophical outlook on life.
I have a terrible vocabulary – something about memorizing word definitions doesn’t work well in my brain. I am constantly working to build a more sophisticated and creative vocabulary…it’s going ok.
You’ve been working with youth programs and teaching for over 20 years. What are some of your favorite things about working with youth?
Youth are so wonderfully unpredictable and bursting with potential! Who knows what they will become? They are learning and growing at a rate much faster than adults, which is inspiring and rejuvenating. It’s a reminder for me to challenge myself to continue learning and growing throughout adulthood, to be humble, and to persevere.
What upcoming youth programs at Hugo House are you most excited about?
I am genuinely excited about all of them! I am excited for Cohort, to see extremely dedicated young writers grow in their craft and as leaders in the writing community. We have many new classes being offered this Fall and have created a new structure for youth classes to hopefully reach more and more diverse youth! We are continuing Write Time and Stage Fright – two youth programs that Hugo House started back in the old location and continue to be successful community-building programs today! And we are launching a new program – Kid’s Write-In – which is for elementary-aged writers! It’s an exciting blend of old and new programming for youth!
In your staff bio, you mention that you’re working towards becoming a children’s book author and illustrator. Can you tell us a little bit about the projects you’re currently working on?
My current projects are mainly picture books featuring characters who are Hawaiian, multiracial, and/or come from a financially insecure household – all representative of my own childhood experiences. One of the stories focuses on the main character’s experience with racial microaggressions, which will hopefully provide parents and teachers a method for talking about this with very young kids, who often have these experiences, but lack the language and/or tools to discuss them.
What are some of your favorite YA or children’s books?
So many – I have told my middle school students that I think The Poet X is one of the few perfect books I’ve ever read. Everything I’ve read by Jason Reynolds (current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress) is absolutely amazing. I recently read a book called The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline (Métis), which is a futuristic dystopian novel that critiques a lot about the colonization of North America in fascinating and realistic ways. Also, when I read Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson while on a plane to Boise, I started sobbing next to a stranger in the seat on my left because the book is so beautiful. I also want to shout out Nnedi Okorafor – I’ve read many of her books, which are often either fantasy or sci-fi, but always African Futurism, and her level of imaginative character and world-building is unparalleled. I could go on and on.
As for picture books, a few years ago, a bunch of friends from different walks of life recently had babies, and I gave all of them a book called Nico Draws a Feeling by Robert Raczka because it is that good! I also love Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love and Too Many Mangos by Tammy Paikai. All of these have messages of love, acceptance, community, and caring. Another great one is I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen because it’s just hilarious.