Forum for student expression since 1977

The Patriot Press

Forum for student expression since 1977

The Patriot Press

Forum for student expression since 1977

The Patriot Press


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Just part of the gang

A quick Google search of your name usually shows the rotting MySpace profiles of the past, as well as the occasional people who share your name. However, for junior, Mike Kaukini, a quick Google search brings up the multiple news station interviews that document the youth empowerment work he does, trying to make some positives out of his gang-related past.

Kaukini struggles to count the number of times he has been in Juvenile Detention overall, but settles on six times for gang-related activity. At only 13 years of age and while living in Texas, Kaukini began to struggle with what he refers to as a broken home and decided he could find family and love elsewhere. Kaukini then met a friend who raved about the gang-life style and encouraged him to join.

“I was a little nervous at joining, but they made you think that they were a family and that is what I needed at the time. The people who introduce you to the gang are usually friends or family members who you trust dearly. You hang out almost every day…after a while they begin to introduce you to the gang life and showing the ins and outs, flashing their money—women—and cars. Before long they ask to be in the gang. At first it was great, I mean, I was making money, I was getting girls, I was kind of living what I thought was the high life,” Kaukini said

Kaukini notes that, looking back, there were scary situations but that he was living off the adrenaline rush each one gave. Being in a gang, Kaukini says, could mean doing simple things like counting cash made from selling prostitutes to being put into extremely dangerous situations—participating in drivebys.

“Asking a gang member if those were his/her main responsibilities is much like asking a lawyer if his/her responsibilities are defending their clients. However, just like any occupation in the world there is your everyday underlying desk work that no one sees, cares about, or even knows about. I never questioned if I had made the right decision at that time,” Kaukini said

It seemed as though Kaukini was in the gang for life; after all, that is what members of the gang told him. However, unbeknownst to Kaukini, there were about to be two events that contradicted exactly what his gang had told him—events that would change his life forever.

“There was a party in Austin that night, and Austin was 2 hours south of where we all lived. I fell asleep and I didn’t hear their phone calls… I found out at school that morning about the crash and that nobody had survived. There were a total of 13 people involved. That’s when I stopped drinking,” Kaukini said

The accident hit Kaukini hard, and he knew that some change was in order. That was when his second card from fate was finally dealt.

“A week later I pulled out of the gang. Well, I moved out of Texas. It was honestly all timing and I believe it was God. We wound up leaving because my dad got a job offer up in Seattle,” Kaukini said

Kaukini did not let out a sigh of relief just yet. Sharply changing his life’s direction did not look appealing at the time.

“That was my source of money. That made me cool. It made people afraid of me so nobody would ever mess with me. It was free drugs and at the time, it got me away from the reality of everything,” Kaukini said

Being free of the gang left Kaukini wanting to help others. He joined an organization through World Vision where he participated in youth empowerment work, traveling to Washington D.C. to meet with Senators and fight gang violence.

“I was actually in D.C. at the time when I got a call that a girl I had met in my gang long ago had gotten shot in the head. She was never involved in gangs on a firsthand or personal level. She was only friends with people in gangs. So, the fact that she was killed was complete shock. I felt extremely saddened. This was the first friend I would lose, out of many, due to violence. I wanted revenge for her and her family. However, at the same time I just wanted to know that these people would be stopped,” Kaukini said

He now hopes that his story will serve as an example for others.

“People’s versions of family can be different. I now define family as hard working parents trying to provide for their kids. I also learned that if you don’t respect yourself, you will let others disrespect you,” Kaukini said

If you know Kaukini , you know he definitely doesn’t let this bring him down. His quick jokes and bubbly attitude can always be heard in the hallways. This certainly isn’t the only part of his life story, as he says,

“My story is confusing, I know. I have to start at the beginning for you to really understand it.”