I received same day responses from five of the companies that I contacted. Because the companies contacted listed themselves as willing to offer problem based learning projects, it saved me time from explaining what problem based learning is and explaining our goals and needs to them. Having everything in one place with the right contact person on the account saved me what would normally take a week’s worth of time getting leads from others or trying to cold call companies to get to the right contact within the company. It definitely saved a lot of correspondence time when I was able to get in contact with the right person from the very beginning.
Geraldine Valencia

Campbell High School

As the Windward Career and Technical Education (CTE) Intermediary, I’ve utilized the ClimbHI Bridge to identify and recruit industry professionals as guest judges for our annual Performance Based Assessment. We’ve also connected with industry professionals to support our Windward Oahu students in future internships and an upcoming virtual career fair. The outcome has been fruitful as we’ve secured a number of industry partners. The fact that these are warm leads as related to workforce development and work-based learning has truly helped my role as the regional intermediary or the connector between industry and education. We really appreciate all the great work the ClimbHI Bridge staff have put into their platform and we intend to keep utilizing it for future work-based learning activities and events!
Dr. Rachael Aquino

Windward CTE Intermediary, Hawaii Workforce Pipeline

The LEI Program was something truly eye opening to me in regards to the hospitality industry. Before LEI, I always thought I would be more interested working in a smaller business setting in regards to the culinary industry. I thought that working in hospitality or in a hotel kitchen would be too stressful and too demanding of a job for me to handle. I also had the misconception that most of the kindness shown in the service industry can be disingenuous at times. Overall, I really did not know much about how hotels or similar operations worked, nor did I believe that I would ever feel interested in working in this industry.

This program helped me see how fun it can be working in hospitality. Working at the Luau was really nice, and seeing the amazing kitchens was a treat. I was surprised how welcoming everyone at the hotel was. The LEI program showed me how genuine everyone was in their desire to be hospitable and spread Aloha. What was really eye opening to me was how caring most of the people were, not just to guests, but also to fellow employees. The HR department really enlightened me on the philosophy of the hotel. Instead of being the department solely devoted in scolding bad behavior of employees like I thought, it is a department that also helps its employees, from job hiring, all the way to the time employees leave. Seeing how much support employees get in order to make everything efficient made me feel like going into the hospitality industry would actually be a good opportunity for me to get started in culinary.

As of right now, I am considering taking a gap year or to in order to save up money for culinary school. I always knew that I wanted to go into the culinary industry ever since middle school. Being able to see the culinary department and help out with the Luau just gave me more encouragement and determination to go into the culinary industry. This program in general has shown me that there is another option regarding where to work, and hearing about the pay was also another incentive for wanting to work in a hotel.

Another thing that this opportunity has shown me is the importance of Aloha, especially in Hawaii. Being able to express that kind of kindness and hospitality is what makes Hawaii, Hawaii. It is something that most of us have been raised with, but we can tend to forget about it. Sharing Aloha helps in spreading our culture to others, and also helps to remind us what values are important, as they are used everyday in the hospitality industry, thus cementing them in our hearts. This value is what makes us unique as a culture, as it expresses our values that we cherish. Aloha is one of the reasons why people like coming back to Hawaii, to come back to the smiles, kindness, and sense of comfort. This is what makes us different from other destinations, as we hold ourselves to a different set of standards of hospitality as we strive to give our guests a welcoming and unforgettable experience.

The LEI Program helped in giving me new experiences as well as introducing me to new opportunities. From this program, I was able to learn more about the hospitality industry, and even got to help out in a Luau. I was reminded of the importance of Aloha, not just in the hospitality industry, but in our culture. I met new people and made new memories, all for which I am thankful.

Rachel Smith

Konawaena High School

In Hawaii, our leading industry is the visitors industry, and if anyone should be first in line, it should be us, the people from Hawaii.” Palakiko’s words will always be embedded in my mind as I continue my journey in the hospitality and tourism industry. Who better to guide and lead Hawaii’s most significant industry than those who grew up here; those who understand how it feels to love the islands and express what “Aloha” truly means. Hawaii’s leading industry is the visitors industry, but one thing that sets our visitor industry apart from the rest of the world is their goal of sharing the aloha and warmth that we have the opportunity to live with everyday. The LEI program encompasses all of this.

Before I joined LEI, I was unsure about my decision of pursuing a career in the hospitality and tourism industry. After transferring to the University of Hawaii at Manoa and beginning my degree in Travel Industry Management I felt out of place. I had not made many friends within my major and I felt alone. Whenever I thought about my major, I associated it with the lackluster lectures I sat through. I was frustrated; being a part of the School of Travel Industry Management ironically made me forget why I wanted to pursue a career in this industry. I did not think it was for me anymore.

By the time I had joined the LEI program, my spark was almost nonexistent. However, this program took me out of the classroom and exposed me to industry leaders and others who are passionate about the industry. Their stories about their journeys and passion for expressing their love for Hawaii helped me remember why I wanted to be a part of this industry. The visitors’ industry is about much more than just sitting through lectures to obtain a degree. You need to live and breath the passion of sharing our love for Hawaii. Everyone I came across believed that I, along with Hawaii’s future generations, could succeed in this industry. It is this belief that makes Hawaii one of a kind.

This year was my very first experience with LEI, and I was scared. My fellow interns already had their own experiences and thoughts about LEI. They consisted of people who were already part of the program for years, as a students who participated in the event or as mentors. I was worried that as a newcomer, I would not be accepted easily, but they accepted me with open arms. I had found a group of people who believed in each other and the program. Being a part of the LEI program has taught me that the industry is a family who welcomes you, wants you to succeed, and will be there with you every step of the way.

In the end, if anyone were to ask me about joining the LEI program, I would support it in a heartbeat. This program helped me grow as a person and exposed me to experiences that I would not find anywhere else. I found a family who shares the passion of teaching the future generations about their love for their islands. They also believed in me when I did not believe in myself. I owe it to the LEI program for helping me rekindle my spark, and I will continue to do so by helping to lead, expose, and inspire the future generations of the hospitality and tourism industry.

Stefani-Frances Balala

University of Hawaii at Manoa

The Leadership, Exploration, and Inspiration program is a day developed exclusively for students throughout the state to experience what the Hospitality Industry is all about. The LEI program shares with Hawai`i’s students the multitude of career possibilities that await them during, and after their education. It also presents a place for students such as myself to network and make connections with those who support us in our endeavors for success.

With tourism topping the list of our state’s economic drivers, it is crucial for students to understand just how many career opportunities exist within the industry. I really had no idea how many options were out there till the LEI program showed me that I am just a step away from every one of them. Whether it be customer service, accounting, or engineering, LEI bridges the gap between the time students receive their education, and the reality of having a great career in hospitality one day.

A most special aspect of the program is the continued commitment from the state’s industry partners who devote their valuable time, sharing insight to their niche in the hospitality industry. For seven years now, industry partners have opened their doors, schedules, and their hearts, welcoming students to the industry with open arms and so much aloha. It is with their support, alongside the remarkable program developed by Julie Morikawa, CEO of ClimbHI, partnered with the Hawai`i Tourism Authority, that students seeking careers in hospitality receive the opportunity to leave their footprint at the doorsteps of businesses who are looking for upcoming professionals.

As a student of Kaua`i Community College, graduating this May with my associates degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management, I was given my first chance for involvement with the LEI program in spring of 2016. I was a mentor, assigned to a group of students, comprised of juniors and seniors from five high schools around the island. Meeting many of the high school students who participated, while sharing with them my excitement about the industry, was paramount. I had the privilege of engaging in conversation about what jobs make up the industry, discussing the careers each were interested in.

At that time, I realized how invaluable it is for students to learn of the career options in hospitality and network so early in our education. This gave great cause to continue to cultivate my leadership skills and foster interests in this powerful industry.

In 2017, I assisted in the organization of the career fair portion of the program beside my professor, Candace Tabuchi, the Hospitality and Tourism program director at KCC. This allowed me to network, while nurturing my understanding of the close knit ‘ohana of industry partners, and their passion for the industry and the students who will follow behind them.

The LEI program’s career fair is where a lot of magic seems to take place. As students tour the booths, and network with directors, managers, and supervisors from the businesses dedicated to the program, there is an air in the room that speaks folds. Students who arrive in the morning, uncertain of what kind of field trip they signed up for, demonstrate a sense of place and much excitement as they explore career options on their island home. It is an experience to be had.

This year I interned with ClimbHI, working with the high energy team that organizes the LEI program each year. Most memorable for me was the kinship with the other interns; friendships that will ring loudly as I move onward with my career in hospitality.

No matter what career is of interest, I believe every student has worlds to gain from their involvement with the LEI program. I strongly recommend it to all students at every level of their journey in education. If you can participate with LEI, do it!

I feel the hospitality industry holds a pearl for every student, one I imagine has each of our names imprinted. Involvement in the LEI program has shown me how students of Kaua`i can live a fruitful life here on our beautiful island, and never have to leave due to lack of career options. I am currently interning in human resources, a potential career option, as my interests in the department have grown.

While visitors come to experience a taste of Hawai`i’s food, and cultural arts, it is our resounding aloha that stems the furthest of all. By sharing our true aloha spirit with our island guests, we can help to sustain this number one economic driver, work to perpetuate our culture, and cultivate jobs for the future.

There was a question posed at the first LEI event I attended, which has continued to inspire me from the moment I heard it. “Who better to work in the industry than you?” I believe the answer is no one. We are a new generation of upcoming hospitality professionals, and it is our kuleana to uphold the efforts of our predecessors, spreading aloha throughout the industry in every way that we can.

Leila F. Summers

Kaua`i Community College

I was once unsure of what I wanted to do in the future and how I was going to face the real world. That all changed when I attended my very first LEI event in high school. I told myself that as much as I did not know what the future holds, it was up to me to decide on how I wanted to live my life and no one else. I need to grab at every and any opportunities that come my way because who knows, maybe one of those opportunities will change my life in a positive way. The first step to changing my life would be going to college and getting a degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management.

I have made it to my third year of college at Hawaii Pacific University and have experienced many things and met a lot of people while learning about myself along the way. Hopefully in a year from now, I will be getting my degree in HTM and entering the real world. I made it this far through hard work, perseverance, and doing things at my own pace. In the future, I would love to be able to stay in Hawaii and work among such a rich, diverse, and welcoming culture that I know and love. I was born and raised in Hawaii and I knew that I wanted to give back to the community that helped me to become the person that I am today. I am slowly but surely working towards my goal and I couldn’t be any happier with how much progress I am making and I look forward to what the future has in store for me.

It was a decision that was made with the students and volunteers’ health and safety in mind that the 9th annual LEI event was postponed. It was an unfortunate turn of events, however, I am proud to have been able to intern with ClimbHI and have been part of the planning process of an event that helps to inspire Hawaii’s local youth and provide them with the knowledge and opportunities to allow them to think about what they can do in the future. Hawaii has a lot to offer when it comes to the Tourism industry and should the student choose to, they could become successful if they worked for it.

I went from attending the event as a student in high school, to a volunteer in my Freshman year at HPU, and then to an intern in my Junior year. I would not have chosen to major in HTM had it not been for the LEI event. I believe that ClimbHI will continue to spark a light into the future generations through LEI and inspire students to work hard for themselves and for the successful future that they want.

Although right now we are going through difficult times due to the concerns of COVID-19, we should be thankful for the people who are on the frontlines making sure to keep the virus at bay. It is hard to not worry about whether a loved one will get sick or how the bills are going to be paid, but it is important to enjoy the moments that we are with our family and friends now while tackling each day one by one. If everyone comes together to fight against COVID-19, better days are to come and we can go back to how things were before the quarantine and the social distancing.

Janine Mabuti


Before I entered college, I had no clear vision about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I simply thought to myself that maybe if I studied business and worked hard enough, I would find a decent position in a successful company. I felt as though there were so many different opportunities, but I just wasn’t exposed to them as much as I would have liked.

Upon learning about the LEI program during my senior year in college, I had a new-found appreciation for ClimbHI’s mission in educating high school students about the various opportunities after high school. I loved how ClimbHI offers the youth of Hawaii a chance to learn more about careers that are close to home, which was something I wish I knew while still in high school.

Because of their inspiring mission, I decided to volunteer for their fall 2019 LEI Program that was held at Four Seasons Hotel and Resort at Ko Olina. I had an amazing time interacting with various students as well as the hotel’s Human Resources. On that same day, I went through two interviews; one with the Director of Rooms and another with the General Manager. A couple days later, I got a call that I had been offered a position as a Winter 2019 Extern.

After working at Four Seasons for a short time, I was able to learn more about the hospitality and tourism industry. I then applied as an intern at ClimbHI, hoping to gain more experience and possibly find a career within this industry. I can wholeheartedly say that being an intern at ClimbHI was one of the greatest choices I have made.

Within the past four months as an intern, I was able to experience what it is like to plan, not only one big event, but five. From recruiting volunteers and guest speakers to speaking with general managers of hotels, I had learned more than I thought I would. I was able to grow both personally and professionally. Although the interns and I were unable to hold these events this spring 2020 due to the effects of COVID-19, I am thankful for being given the opportunity to be a part of a hardworking team.

Looking back at it now, volunteering at that one LEI program during fall 2019 led me to working at Four Seasons and becoming an intern at ClimbHI. The LEI program is a wonderful experience to be a part of, whether you’re a high school student, college student, or even out of college. Getting yourself involved and being able to speak with so many different people from different backgrounds is inspiring. There are so many things one can gain from this program, and you never really know where it may lead you in the future.

Brittney Lynn Falguera

University of Hawaii-West Oahu

My days blur together and it’s already difficult to remember what life was like outside of the four-walls of my home. When coronavirus first hit the media, it seemed as if it were another fear mongering headline that would disappear with the next big thing. I likened it to the Ebola virus scare of 2014, tragic for the people of Africa, but relatively controlled on American soil. In February, my colleagues became weary when dealing with Chinese guests and I rolled my eyes and informed them that they were knowingly or unknowingly participating in discrimination. By early March, my workplace experienced a dramatic efflux of guests and every worker anxiously wondered, “What happens now?”

I went into work on Monday, March 16 th and the next day was informed via email that the governor has closed down all restaurants for dine-in service. This meant that all front-of-house and back-of-house workers, excluding the managers and chefs, would be out of work until further notice. I am very fortunate to work for a company that dearly cares for its employees, and management has done everything within power to assist our team in applying for partial unemployment and inform us of possible grants we can apply for. Any question I had on unemployment or benefits were answered swiftly and empathetically. During times such as this, it is paramount to be kind and understanding towards everyone, as this is an event in which no one has experienced since perhaps the Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

I plan to graduate in May 2020 with an AAS degree in Hospitality & Tourism from UH Maui College. This semester our HOST 280 Hospitality Management students were understanding a major class project – organizing a career fair for the LEI 2020 Maui Program at Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa. A group of our classmates had put many hours of work in recruiting employers from local businesses. I’m proud to say that our hard work had paid off and we reached our goal – successfully recruited over 30 vendors from Maui by early March. And 45 hospitality students are committed to serve as mentors in the upcoming LEI 2020 Maui event. Sadly enough, the event got postponed because of the COVID-19 situation.

Since becoming laid-off and online schooling, I have done my best to participate in the early stages of social distancing. Living at home with a mother whom can be considered immune-compromised; I must take into account that it is not my own safety I should worry over. Though it is not to say that young and healthy individuals should not be afraid of the affects of the virus, we should especially take into account the citizens that are more vulnerable to it. “Stay home” is a phrase more widely used now than ever, and it is true that everyone with the ability to stay home and self-isolate should participate in self-quarantine.

Meanwhile, everyone diligently practicing in the quarantine is, unfortunately, more susceptible to the negative mental and emotion impacts of social distancing. The first two weeks of self-isolation felt like a breeze to me; I am a person that appreciates solitude, after all. I even took the quarantine as an opportunity to better myself. I started doing home-workouts, counted calories, and took my dog on neighborhood walks twice a day. I tried to keep myself busy as an effort to avoid boredom. Every week I would bake, every other day I would cook something new, I tried watching new TV shows and ordered used books from Amazon.

However, once the third week started to creep on me, I began to feel more and more alone than ever. My exercise came to an abrupt stop and my baking projects were swiftly gorged on, rather than pieced out healthily. I started to miss my friends and worry about my expenses, more and more. Every single time a bill creeps up on me, I cringe at the thought that I have no income to make up for the money lost. Even still though, I know that there are people who are struggling much worse than I am. Complaining about a situation like this will lead to no positive outcome and will only embitter me.

As a hospitality student, it is difficult to ponder about my future in the hotel industry. With tourism at an all-time low, I believe that it will be borderline impossible to secure a career in this field in the following months. While the entire world on the edge of the supposed next Great Depression, it is even hard to imagine I will still have a job at my restaurant once the pandemic ends. With so many people on unemployment, who can afford going out to dinner when everyone is going to play catch-up on the finances that were decimated in this crisis? How many businesses will have to shutter their windows and close their doors? How many men and women will be left unemployed and without a means to support themselves and their families?

Especially now, it is imperative to support your local businesses. Skip the McDonalds drive-thru and head over to the food trucks, instead. Starbucks and Burger King will survive, but the quaint, mom-and-pop diner on the corner may not. If you have the means, please assist in keeping small businesses afloat. When you buy food or clothing from a local business, you are helping a family put food on their table. When you pick-up a call-in order from the Italian joint up the street, you are putting money into employee paychecks.

Like so many others, I am uncertain about the future. Information changes hourly, rules become stricter, and penalties harsher. However, through this all, I urge everyone to have faith in yourselves, and others. Practice kindness and look for it in your neighbor. For every negative headline, there is a person going above and beyond to spread cheer and hope. I believe in us, and I believe in our ability to turn this pandemic around.

Fleur Nakanishi

University of Hawaii, Maui College

The future of Hawaii is in the hands of the next generation. While we may not have control as to what will happen in the future, we can lead, expose and inspire the next generation to understand the importance of the hospitality industry and the role that they could play in the future.

I can whole-heartedly say that I am not only proud, but also honored to have been able to play a part in ClimbHi’s 8 th annual LEI program. Events that allow students to see the actual inner workings of hotels, to see the impact tourism has on Hawaii, to inspire students to work in the industry, or get a college degree that could allow them to work in the industry. These are the types of events that need to happen to ensure that the next generation is prepared and ready to take Hawaii to new levels of excellence.

Students have come to me asking how they can be more involved with LEI, one even exclaimed that they were a student in high school and participated in LEI for all four years, then went off to pursue a degree in hospitality management and began participating as a mentor for high school students. Moments like that show just how crucial LEI is to further developing and teaching high school students about the hospitality industry, and the impact that it is already having.

As an intern, one moment that stood out was on the Big Island of Hawaii, I had a chance to be a mentor for the students of the Hawaii High Schools. I had a moment of complete awe when I witnessed these timid group of high school’s blossom into full-fledged hosts, seating guests at the Mauna Kea Beach Resorts Luau. The students sat over four hundred guests to their seats, accommodated problems, brought over high chairs…and the list goes on and on. But most importantly, they showed A.L.O.H.A. The students were introducing themselves, talking story, showing off an exact definition of what I believe aloha is; something that was genuine, kind, and warm. After speaking with staff and some guests that hung around after the luau, everyone was amazed at how well the students did and wished they would comeback for the next day’s luau.

These types of moments are something that I never would have gotten the chance to experience in any other internship. Having the opportunity to train the students on how to seat a guest, how to prepare tables for dinner service, or how to interact with guests when they are on the clock. This type of experience was something that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I hope that in some way, shape or form, the students that I worked with too can take away something from the experience that we all shared.

The future of Hawaii is in the hands of the next generation. It is our duty to make sure they are prepared and ready for the challenges that will be awaiting them. I am proud to have been a part of the L.E.I program and hope to be able to assist and play a role with L.E.I in the future and see how the program will grow.

Jared Matsuki

University of Hawaii at Manoa School of Travel Industry Management

Transformative, inspiring, and life-changing; some of the few words that define what the hospitality industry means to me. I was just a youthful, shy, and confused 16-year old teenager that didn’t know what to do in his future. At this particular age, my future was unplanned, I had no idea what I was going to do five years from then. It all changed when I chose to join the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism at Maui High School. At first, it was all new to me, I was terrified, scared of being a failure because I took a class that I had no knowledge about. During the two years of being in that class, I learned the basics of travel and tourism. I wanted more so, I decided to dig deeper and enhance my knowledge within this field of study.

After graduating in the year of 2017, I planned to attend the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), where I would obtain my bachelors degree in travel and tourism. However, life happens and unfortunate events tend to occur. UNLV did not happen but that didn’t stop me from learning more about the industry. I had a backup plan of enrolling at the University of Hawaii, Maui College (UHMC) and chose to pursue an associates degree in Hospitality and Tourism. I believe that everything happens for a reason and attending school on the island was the best decision I ever made. During the time spent here learning more about the industry, I was able to learn more of the different aspects of the hospitality industry. For example, each course was focused on a significant area like housekeeping, front office, customer service, etc. I even get the chance to have face to face experience with the industry through site-visits at different places. The students, teachers, and mentors that I have met along the way gave me motivation to keep moving forward in the industry. At this point in time, the hospitality industry has grown into a passion. A passion because I have found a deeper meaning to the industry. Satisfying the guest, making connections, or providing excellent customer service are important but there is something that is far more meaningful. Which is inspiration. Everyone can satisfy a guest and give great customer service but it takes a leader to inspire others. I want to motivate others to never give up and always strive for bigger aspirations. I find a difference between a manager and a leader. A manager is a person that gives orders and doesn’t really care of their employees. However, a leader is an idol. Someone who will put things in your perspective instead of just their own. They will care, nourish you, help you be better than you were yesterday. I want to be a leader.

The hospitality industry improved my leadership capabilities. Through the hospitality program at UHMC, I was able to help coordinate this year’s LEI 2019 event held at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa. I was chosen to be the mentor coordinator. My job was to recruit mentors and train them to help designate high school students to different resorts and help them learn about the industry. With my partner, we recruited 29 mentors! The most mentors ever recruited and it was a great feeling to know that. During the LEI event, I was able to obtain an internship with PSAV. I gained the confidence to “advertise” myself to them and they found me a “perfect candidate” for their event technology intern. As an event technology intern, I will be stationed at the Grand Wailea but will be working with other partnerships with the company. I am going to be learning about the different technology they use and will do hands-on projects that include setting up for the events. I am really excited to see how the internship goes because it’s a different field for me. I always thought of going into hotel management but PSAV is more of event planning. It’ll be challenging but it will be a great learning experience. This will definitely help better my future in the hospitality industry.

As you can see, the hospitality industry has had a huge impact on my life. In the past, I had no idea of what I wanted to do until I started to learn more about the industry. As of right now, I am pursuing a degree in hospitality industry and will have the opportunity to work with PSAV. Although my future is unwritten, I know for sure that I will find myself in the hospitality industry. I still have a lot to learn and experience but this is all part of the journey. It’s more than just trying to find a job now, it’s all about becoming a leader, to explore more opportunities, and to inspire others along the way. The hospitality industry was the right pathway for me.

Dean Lizada

University of Hawaii, Maui College

I wanted to thank you for giving me and Molokai High School this opportunity to participate and be part of the Lei Program. This program didn’t only inspire other students but LEI was able to inspire me and help me understand more of who I am. When I was given the honor to do an ‘oli I was really happy because it’s what I love to do. However, I was shame to expose myself. Exposing my disability to others and afraid that I would be judge. But I was brave enough to continue on, and it turned out to be a success. In the end of the program a few reached out to me letting me know that they’re here for me which they are till today. It helped me realize, for example that it’s better to have 1 quarter then 25 pennies. It also made me consider to continue on into the Hospitality Industry and going out to share our culture, our ʻōlelo and sharing everything we once had. The Lei Program should continue as long as possible because there are kids out there with so many talents that the’re either blind to see, shame of what they have, or they don’t get enough support. Lei has shown me all the opportunity that’s in front of me. This is the reason the Lei program is important and should continue on. I’m really hoping that Molokai High will have this opportunity again next year and hopefully we’ll be able to bring more of our students and I really hope I’ll be part of Lei again. Thank you so much aunty Julie for helping me and other students to see what’s out there. No words can explain how truly thankful we all are. Mahalo nui loa!!!!
Kalei Paleka-Cummings

Molokai High School

My name is Payton Kaalekahi. I am a junior at Molokai High School and I received the privilege of attending the LEI program on Maui. I would like to thank you for vouching for Molokai and funds for students from Molokai to travel to this program for free. LEI was such a wonderful and inspiring event for me. As a freshman I chose to take a business core class because I didn’t know what else to choose as my elective class. I thought, “Why not?” But since then I’ve had an absolute blast exploring the business world. I was a very quiet, shy student who was terrified of public speaking, strangers, and putting myself out there in any way. But with Ms. Ward’s help she opened up my shell and helped me become who I am today. I have headed the planning of two major events at my school, given multiple speeches at different events, and I am always ready for a new challenge.

When I first heard about LEI I was ecstatic. Ms. Ward explained that we would visit a hotel and learn about all the inner workings of the hotel industry. Personally I love to work with people and hope to one day become an event planner with my own business. I knew that if I could go to this program it would expand my knowledge of business and could possibly open up many opportunities for me. I just wanted to say thank you for allowing Molokai to come and for opening your doors to us and showing us such love and aloha. From the time we walked in we were greeted by Palakiko who is such a down-to-earth uncle. I just loved his vibe and the way he just connected with us. He had no shame sharing his story and knew we would gladly go all out with him as well. I could tell that all the speakers and adults at LEI truly had a desire to lead and inspire the students who came. They shared their stories and inspired me even further to know that I can really make it and be what I want to be.

I visited the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort and the entire staff was just wonderful. You could tell they had so much experience in all of their different fields and were all having so much fun “pitching” their jobs to us. I made so many connections through LEI, friendly and professional. I met people I never knew before and became good friends with them. And we still keep in contact. But on the professional side, I have the contact info for the hotel manager and their recruiting agent. Since I love working with people and hope to plan events they both told me that they would love to put me to work. Whether I visit over the summer, stop by before or after college, or even during they want me to come back and either work or intern for them. I would be working with either person and also working wherever else is needed. I never thought I would want to work for a hotel but I wouldn’t mind working at the Westin.

But even after that at the fair back at the Sheraton I was so hyped up. The feel of LEI was just amazing and I only made more connections during the fair. I have this summer two internships if I want them on Maui, one with submarine tours and the other with photography, the junior lifeguard program here on Molokai if interested and a chance to be fully certified, as well as a contact at the Marriott to look for a job at any Marriott wherever I go. I don’t know if you have any idea what this event has meant to me and done for me. I’d like to thank not only you but anyone else who vouched for Molokai’s spots. You have inspired me beyond measure and given me so many opportunities through this event. I wish I had a way I could thank you more than just a letter. As a soon to be senior I didn’t know what I should do, and LEI was exactly what I needed to confirm that this is the path I will be pursuing. And with so many connections I have so many ways I can go and I am so excited.

Payton Kaalekahi

Molokai High School

The Aloha Spirit was something that I knew well and it’s like second nature to me. Hospitality, on the other hand, was something that I had never thought of considering. Going into this program, I had never considered the opportunities hospitality had to offer. The LEI program had opened my eyes to how sharing the Aloha Spirit was not only important to us but the tourists that explore our home. The experience truly was awe-inspiring. It was such an eye-opening event that forever changed my outlook on leadership, hospitality, and the Aloha Spirit.

Throughout the program, I had felt completely comfortable being around everyone. Everyone was so quick to become friends with everyone that I felt the urge to create new friendships. The overall experience of connecting with other school leaders and enjoying ourselves was one of the highlights of the program. I am more than willing to come back and recommend the LEI program to my friends because it is an unforgettable, life-changing experience that everyone deserves. Additionally, I believe that everyone can take something away from being involved with the program because I did and I plan on carrying it with me to benefit the school and to use later in the future.

As mentioned, I was going into the LEI Program with zero knowledge of hospitality other than it was very important to the economy of Hawaii. Being able to experience first hand what it’s like being in the hospitality industry behind the scenes was the climax of the whole event. The in-depth tour of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was so inspiring to me. I had fully understood the meaning of teamwork when I realized that managing a hotel was not a one-man job. It was a job for hundreds of people. Although there were unfilled employee spots in certain departments, everyone involved in the system is able to pull through and create an amazing experience for tourists and I find that astonishing.

Being a part of the program, I have a better understanding of the importance of hospitality to the State of Hawaii. Now realizing what it really means to share the Aloha Spirit, I look forward to the upcoming school years that I plan to make better for everyone. I’m so happy to have learned and grown so much during the two days of the event. The Lei program taught me so much about the system of hotels and hospitality that maybe I might work in the hospitality industry. I look forward to what I could offer to Pahoa High using the information I learned during the event. I count on coming back next year to the program to learn even more.

Carlo Daquioag

Pahoa High and Intermediate School

The theme of this year’s Lead, Expose and Inspire Program, LEI, April 16-17 on Hawaii Island was the wind of the Hawaiian Islands, and like the makani of the Hawaiian Islands, each person’s wind sets them on a different journey — one that consists of their dreams and aspirations.

In school, we are often asked, “What do you want to be when you are older?” With hard work and dedication, I was accepted into Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where I will be pursuing a bachelor’s degree in government and hope to pursue a graduate degree in international relations, enabling me to learn and prepare for my goal of earning a seat in Congress, and this desire is my wind. As a congressman, I hope to make tourism bigger in Hawaii by investing in efforts to clean up our beaches and the National Parks in Hawaii that bring millions to the state.

However, sometimes the direction of the wind changes and as people with huge dreams and aspirations, we must adapt to these changes and continue to sail until we reach our destination.

And like all things, the hospitality industry is susceptible to these changes, including a shortage in hotel and resort employees, competing hotels, and a decline in visitor counts to the islands.

Sitting with Brad from the sales department, I learned numerous ways in which a hotel like the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel can adapt to these changes to successfully provide effective and customer-friendly service to their visitors such as packages and seasonal discounts. Additionally, talking with Connie, I learned about the hiring process and how the hospitality industry can provide residents of Hawaii work opportunities in a broad spectrum of fields including culinary arts, engineering, customer service, management, and accounting. There is literally a job available for everyone regardless of their interests.

In all, while these destinations may be great, the question many high school students like me are asking is, “How do I know what my wind is?” Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to that question and only as individuals can we answer it, but the biggest thing that I’ve learned from both my past experiences and from this LEI Program is to expose myself to different industries and different opportunities.

Only then can a person determine if that industry is the right one for him/her or whether he/she should attempt something different. The manager of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Mr. Kansas Henderson, didn’t know what he wanted to do after high school and only determined his interest in hospitality after listening to several speakers during his senior year. We have a head start and for that, I thank ClimbHI for planning this event. Likewise, I didn’t find my passion in government and promoting social justice until I found myself participating in Youth and Government, and later the Conference on National Affairs.

The hospitality industry works 24/7 every day of the year to provide an unmatchable service that will keep Hawaii’s strongest economic industry alive both culturally and physically with their hard work. ClimbHI and the Hawaii Tourism Authority put an utmost importance on the concepts of customer service, environmental sustainability, and infrastructure investment to ensure that visitors come back to Hawaii and continue to provide our people with opportunities.

I hope that this program brings light to the beauty of Hawaii and the desire of millions of people to visit our islands annually, enough to encourage all generations, including future ones, that Hawaii should always be part of their wind, whether it be in the hospitality industry or elsewhere.

Rowlie John Flores

Ka'u High School

Hawaii preserves the island in means of taking care of their people and those who wish to experience the true meaning of aloha. Over time, Hawaii eventually became the most desirable destination to visit, putting the hospitality and tourism as the leading industry on each of the islands. ClimbHI’s effort to promote jobs to local residents and our youth shows the support they continuously provide to our community, making it known that there are opportunities for advancement and that there many jobs available for me right here in Hawaii.

It was not until that day of the first L.E.I event on Maui that the world of the hotel industry sparked interest in me – from the motivational speakers to the back of the house tours. The are countless job opportunities waiting at our door! But I was only a 16-year-old student back then and anything I could remember after was nothing more than the exposure.

A year later I returned and the year after that; three years counting as a mentor, each year noticing more than I noticed before. Even after the struggle of getting used to being out of my comfort zone, I enjoyed the small personal conversations with the students, sneak peaks of the hallways and offices where I possibly could be working at someday and words of wisdom from the experts. I found my connection to the tourism industry through the L.E.I program and was more than satisfying.

When I thought things could not get any better, one last hoorah and I, along with my capstone class, eventually became one of the faces behind the program. I would be part of the LEI program again…but this time I would finish off with by helping plan the career fair, which neatly tied everything together. L.E.I has always been great at coming full circle, always never failing to prepare us for the real world. When we successfully executed the Career Fair portion of the event, it validated that ‘I am’ at the right place and in the right industry and I wouldn’t have known it if it wasn’t for the opportunity given. As I approach what will be the greatest milestone in my life thus far, I hope ClimbHI continues to inspire and educate aspiring leaders.

Tourism might be universal, but Hawaii is home of genuine hospitality and there are no better ambassadors of that than our own.

Sheralyn Soliven

University of Hawaii, Maui College

Never did I imagine the huge impact that the LEI program would make on me; never did I expect the tremendous amount of knowledge and wisdom I would retain. Before attending the event, the hospitality industry was something I had was undecided, along with the career that I wanted to pursue. I was always searching for people with the right answers and the knowledge to reassure me whether or not hospitality was the career for me, but found only a few. Then there was the LEI program. After spending a day at the convention center talking to various colleges and businesses as well as touring around one of the most amazing hotels in Waikiki, I now know whole-heartedly where I want to spend my entire career giving forth all my energy and dedication: the hospitality industry.

Exiting the bus, I was not prepared for the life lessons that I was going to learn. Though it was inspiring to hear the wise words from many successful people, the words “we are the peacemakers” struck me the most. It opened my eyes to the realization that a housekeeper or a simple bellhop, are all peacemakers in the hospitality industry who make it a point to treat guests from around the world with such Aloha and generosity. People invest their entire life for an opportunity to come to Hawaii and escape their life at home, difficult or busy, and so it is imperative that those in the industry must help accommodate them. After hearing this I learned that we as people who speak the language of Aloha must share it amongst everyone, whether it be a warm smile or a greeting, so we may extend our gratitude to as many as we can and have our generosity play as peacemakers in the world. I knew then the importance of the hospitality industry for not only Hawaii but around the world, and my heart opened closer to industry.

Because my career choice was an issue for me, I had no idea what college and type of major I was going to head to in the future. Seriously misguided, LEI had helped to steer me into the right direction by enabling us to speak to different colleges. Desperate to talk to schools like University of Hawaii (UH), I laid out all my questions. It was amazing to find that they answered each one with tremendous amount of information that I had not known. After such a fulfilling discussion with them, I finally decided that my major would be Travel Industry Management, with an emphasis on Hospitality, as I hope to attend UH.

If I could sum up the remarkable experience and overall thought for the LEI program, it would be that it is an ultimate life-changer. I was completely lost, looking for some kind of direction when LEI guided me to the right path. They taught me that hospitality was not just helping people but a network of amazing people operating together to give the true experience of paradise and Aloha to guests worldwide. Because of that, I knew I wanted to immerse myself in such an incredible industry. I am now even more determined to continue my path to a bright future with LEI beside me. I entered the LEI program desperate and misguided, and left confident and reassured.

Therese Boter

Farrington High School

This is my second year participating and I certainly have gained so much knowledge and views from the experiences you have given me. It was great to be able to attend and befriend students of other schools as well as meet the staff at the beautiful Royal Hawaiian Hotel, and the Hawaii Convention Center.

The words you spoke of at the last year’s convention, “L.E.I. is not a program! Leadership Exploration and Inspiration are things that you should carry with you in life,” have stayed with me till this day and will continue to try and exemplify these characteristics.

High School Student

James Campbell High School

When I saw Tihati’s Productions and Germaine’s Lu’aū, I knew that people become successful in what they love to do- making it not seem like a typical, normal job. After seeing how people can make a living off of Tahitian and Polynesian dancing, I took it into consideration on adding this job into my future plans for myself. Like any other goal that people set up, I know that if I put in hard work and determination into dancing, I know that someday, I can be a professional dancer.
High School Student

Kauai High School

The one thing that I most enjoyed about the program was the actual tour of the hotel. I felt that by having that inside access and seeing the entire behind the scenes operations of the hotel, we were able to gain a better sense of the hotel’s system and how each department contributes to the success of the hotel. It was also very intriguing to see how each department contained a certain type of personality profile; it was nice to see everyone happy with their job because it suited their personality and it was reassuring to know that there are jobs that can match your personality type.
High School Student

Mililani High School