Categorized | Education, Featured, News

Big Island leaders host youth on Job Shadow Day


Last Friday (Feb 14) Big Island youth ventured from the Mayor’s offices in Hilo to the State Capitol on Oahu for Job Shadow Day. A national event, it was organized locally by the Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative (SHYLI).

When Mayor Billy Kenoi called business leader Richard Ha for a last-minute meeting, Ha decided to bring youth KaMele Sanchez with him. After all he had promised KaMele last month during SHYLI’s site visit to his Hamakua Country Springs Farm that she could shadow him. He had been impressed with her Sustainability-In-Action Project on hydroponics. With her SHYLI partner, Sherry Anne Pancho they trained 96 third graders at the Waimea Elementary School to create their own hydroponics. “KaMele is a very special young person,” says Ha. “We hit the ground running.”

From Bruce Matthews to Dr. Shintaku’s lab projects on taro blight disease and the genetic mapping of kalo to Bruce Mathews and then Maria Haws’ tour of the UH Aquaculture Site at Bayfront. KaMele was impressed saying, “The farm is extremely self-sustained, culturing their own algae, spawning their own oysters, and raising and selling them for profit.” From learning about Jeff Melrose’s report on Hawaii County’s Food Self-Sufficiency Baseline to talking with representatives of the Philippines delegation with Ha to study geothermal production. “I for one, like to talk, and all of these folks did too!” says KaMele. “It wasn’t everyday talk-story. It was about real problems happening now — serious topics and the scientific, practical, and economical stand points. I loved it!”

The highlight of KaMele’s day was meeting Billy Kenoi. “The Mayor gave me an inspirational talk, local-style,” says the Honoka’a High School junior. “’No scaid ‘em!” — it’s the best catchphrase ever!”

For Job Shadow Day Sherry Anne Pancho shadowed Dr. Linda Connelly and Dr. Aaron Jacobs, professors at the Daniel Inouye College of Pharmacy, University of Hawaii Hilo. Dr. Jacobs says, “We are very impressed with Sherry Anne and SHYLI’s efforts to provide Hawaii’s students with firsthand experiences in potential career paths and believe this is a valuable investment in the sustainability of our future workforce.”

Waiakea High School sophomore Bethany Anderson shadowed Dr. Lei Imaino-Hata at the Aloha Veterinarian Center in Hilo. For the last six months, Bethany has partnered with Rainbow Friends to host six spay and neuter clinics for 300 cats.

Waimea youth Alex Siordia shadowed Representative Cindy Evans where she recognized him the floor of the State Capitol. An HPA student, Alex’s Sustainability-In-Action Project is coordinating College Prep Workshops to encourage public school students to pursue their dreams through vocational schools, community colleges or universities. “Alex is Hawaii’s future and I encourage him to follow his dream of being a lawmaker and making decisions that will benefit the people of Hawai’i Island and the State of Hawai’i,” says Rep. Evans.  

Waimea youth Mickie Hirata also traveled to Oahu to shadow Dr. Dora Nakafuji, Director of Renewable Energy at Hawaiian Electric. “Mickie showed exceptional poise and interest in sharing her Sustainability-In-Action Project with us using the IBIS Intellisockets,” said Dr. Nakafuji.  “It was both exciting and inspiring to hear how she understood the value of gathering data and using it to help people learn about energy use.  By being more informed, people can make smarter more sustainable choices.“

After her adventure at HECO, Mickie visited Oceanit’s corporate headquarters and met the IBIS team. “It was great to meet those who’ve developed the programming, designing, project planning, business, assembling and even invented the Intellisockets!” says Mickie. “I had no idea how new this company was and how special I was to be their first experiment! It was incredible to see them upgrading their top-secret blueprints.”

Alex and Mickie attended a reception hosted by Oceanit on Oahu where they shared their life-changing experiences with business, government and academic leaders. SHYLI youth Lucy Gaceta also traveled from Lana’i. As recipients of the Corporate STEM Award Oceanit, is invested in the development of our future leaders. The reception was simultaneously video conferenced to the University of Hawaii Hilo Chancellor’s offices where SHYLI youth and their mentors shared their experiences with Matthew Platz, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Steve Colbert, Marine Science, Pat Hart, Biology, Bruce Mathews, Agriculture, and Farrah Gomes from North Hawaii Education and Research Center. “As UH Hilo moves towards providing an applied learning experience for every student,” says Chancellor Don Straney, “we are excited to be working with partners like SHYLI to prepare the young people of Hawai’i for a productive future for themselves, our island and our state.”

“It’s no secret that our world is facing some major challenges in the coming decades,” says SHYLI project coordinator Katie Schwind. “These challenges will take engaged, creative, individuals from our coming generations to take the reigns of change and find solutions for islands. Hawaii, and many rural and island areas, commonly struggle to limit the brain drain when there are limited economic opportunities available. SHYLI works with active young people who have been nominated by community members who recognize their potential to be change makers in their future.”

After attending SHYLI’s Youth & Community Forum in Waimea, Oceanit’s Vice President Ian Kitajima invited SHYLI’s Executive Director Marianne Larned to bring it to Oahu and partner with Design Thinking Hawaii. The Design Sustainable Hawaii Forum will be held at Windward Community College on April 4. At the Forum, SHYLI youth and sustainable business leaders from Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Hawaii, and Lanai will share their vision and passion for a brighter Hawaii and develop unique public-private partnerships and implement innovative sustainability projects throughout Hawaii. “Hawaii is in urgent need of new leadership, innovative thinking, action-oriented and collaborative people who can work together, especially on sustainability initiatives that benefit everyone,” says Kitajima. For more information and to register for the Forum:

KaMele will join Mr. Ha at the Forum. “ Whether the topic be agriculture, food production, genetics, or energy I plan to never be “scaid em,” and to have a voice in deciding what are the best choices for our Island’s future.”

“This high level program for exceptional local kids, from humble means, deserves our support,” says Ha. “I’ve spent my entire 35-year career positioning our farm to be relevant for the future. When I see SHYLI youth I see Hawaii’s future. We must invest in and nurture them. And, we must do it now!”

More info about Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative at

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