High School Students

Before the LEI Conference I didn’t think that the tourism industry had much of an impact, I thought that they only took care of the people who were visiting. Now, after the Conference it changed my whole perspective. I have noticed how much the tourism industry does for people and for Hawaii. Not only are they a source of income, but they also help share the values and the knowledge about Hawaiian culture. When people around the world come to visit Hawaii, the tourism industry treats their guests with aloha and makes sure that they start to love Hawaii not only for the environment and the beaches, but for their culture and the special bond that everyone has with one another. One of the main reasons why people join the tourism industry is to make people notice how beautiful Hawaii really is, and without the tourism industry people wouldn’t have that opportunity. It gives them a reason to love Hawaii and want to come back. Overall, the tourism industry has become very important to me because it helps people who visit gain the experience and knowledge about Hawaii and its culture.
Waianae High School Student

Waianae High School

The tourist industry in Hawaii is important to me because it gives so many locals opportunities to work and find a passion. I also find that the importance of the tourist industry falls under the knowledge that we can spread to visitors that come from all over. We can share our culture, mana, and ‘Aina with them. The tourist industry supports so many of the needs and wants of the islands, from agriculture to stores. The money from the enormous industry gets funneled back into our communities, schools, roads, and government. The people of Hawaii should be so grateful to have such a once-thriving industry and soon to be brought back once again. I know that I’m so very thankful for this industry not only because of the profits that Hawaii gets but for the opportunities that are given to many local Keiki and future generations.
Molokai High School Student

Molokai High School

The tourism industry in Hawaii is important to me because it was my first welcome into America. As an immigrant from the Philippines, my family decided to move to America for better opportunities. After getting off my flight, the tourism industry was the first thing to welcome me on this island. The welcoming faces of people, whom I have never met before, made me feel like I’ve been living here for years. It felt like home.

The tourism industry does so much for our community that it is sometimes overlooked. People think that the tourism industry is there just to accommodate tourists and give our island money, but it’s actually way more than that. The tourism industry creates new ways to welcome a variety of people into our islands. Not only that, but the tourism industry in Hawaii is completely different from other areas. Our industry finds a way to make you feel like home, even if you are miles away from home. In addition, they treat you like family, despite just meeting you for the first time. Without the tourism industry, I don’t think I would have felt very welcome stepping onto new land. That is why the tourism industry in Hawaii is important to me.

Waipahu High School Student

Waipahu 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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