College Alaka’i and Career Fair Course Participants

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

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

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