Debbi Amaral, Maui Economic Opportunity’s director of Early Childhood Services, accepted her Champions for Children for Early Learning as an individual award in a virtual ceremony Wednesday, April 7.
Amaral was one of 11 Champions for Children, presented by Hawai`i Children’s Action Network, to receive awards in the ceremony streamed from Oahu. There were nearly 90 nominees for 11 awards in various categories.
For the last 26 years, Debbi has managed operations and supervised staff at MEO’s Head Start pre-kindergarten program for low income families on two islands in Maui County. She began with MEO in 1996 as education/disability specialist, working her way up to director of Early Childhood Services in 2005.
She currently directs 13 in-person/virtual Head Start sites, serving as many as 250 children and their families, and Kahi Kamali`i Infant/Toddler and `Ohana Strengthening programs.
Prior to joining MEO as an educational specialist in 1995, Amaral got experience as a teacher and teacher’s aide at Kahului Union, Wailuku Union, Iao and Kahului Baptist preschool programs. She earned her associate’s degree in human services with an emphasis in early childhood from Maui Community College, now UH-Maui College.
Adjusting on the fly to the COVID-19 pandemic just showed why Debbi is a Champions for Children. Using her experience and creativity, she quickly kept her programs running, setting up health and safety protocols, developing virtual learning sites while maintaining in-person access for some working families, secured computer tablets for families without them and created a virtual curriculum.
She also organized drive-thru food giveaways and weekend meals through Maui Food Bank’s Aloha BackPack Buddies for her programs’ families.
“Debbi represents the best of MEO,” said CEO Debbie Cabebe. “Helping our young families, who would otherwise not be able to afford early childhood education, and changing the course of their lives.
“We have always considered Debbi a champion for children in Maui County. Now, she has the title. We thank the Hawai`i Children’s Action Network for recognizing Debbi.”
Debbi Amaral, Maui Economic Opportunity’s director of Early Childhood Services, was honored as a Hawai`i Children’s Action Network Champions for Children for Early Learning as an individual in a livestreamed event Wednesday, April 7. Screenshots from the virtual presentation of the award are shown.