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

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

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


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

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