BY LISA MARIE DAHM
NORTH HAWAII NEWS
For 40 teens in Lifeplan groups around the island, the Third Annual Youth Summit at the Four Seasons Hualalai and Hualalai Resort on July 9 was a valuable opportunity to meet new friends, build skills and enjoy a beautiful, sunny day participating in ocean activities.
Lifeplan Institute is a national organization that helps teens to develop life goals and to create a group of adult mentors to support them and help them in their journey.
The Hualalai Ohana Foundation, in partnership with the Lifeplan Institute, organized the Youth Summit. Youth between 13 and 18 years old attended the summit from all areas – from Kona up to North Kohala and over to Honokaa.
The day explored “How to Find and Talk to Mentors.” Nine mentors from the community gave career presentations. They explained to the youth how they got their jobs and they gave them advice on how to pursue their own career paths.
Kei-Lin Cerf, executive director of the Hualalai Ohana Foundation and a Lifeplan group leader, said the curriculum was developed to help expound on what the youth experience at their Lifeplan meetings.
“In the morning, they received the additional training on focusing their goals and their direction and how to ask an adult mentor to help them, “ Cerf said. “We taught them exactly what to do to make a focused request and not to make a broad ambiguous request.”
Attending were Dr. Andy Mecca, Lifeplan founder, and Dr. Jim and Lee Kooler, all from California, who presented workshops.
“They come over on their personal vacation and they donate their time for the youth that day,” Cerf said.
Youth Summit career speakers included: Daniel Kelii Perez, Alakai Nalu supervisor for the Hualalai Resort; Melissa Ven Der Merwe, natural resource programs and marine specialist at the Hualalai Resort; Nicole Tachibana, outreach coordinator for the Hualalai Resort; Andrew Cooper, executive sous chef for the Four Seasons Resort, Hualalai; Stephanie Pearson Donoho, tourism specialist for the Department of Research and Development for the County of Hawaii; Capt. Mitch Kanehailua, commander of the Area 1 Criminal Investigations Division for the Hawaii Police Department; Swantje Sackniess, conference services manager for the Four Seasons Hualalai, and Michael Bonahan, entrepreneur and developer.
“We are speeding up that ‘click’ to help our youth understand the importance of networking and tapping the experts,” Cerf said. “We have very talented people that would love to help youth.”
Robin Mullin, executive director of Five Mountains Hawaii, said the summit also helped students network with other students as well as with the adult mentors.
“I think the important part about the summit, is that groups from different areas come to understand they are not in isolation,” she said “They get to meet each other and see how alike they are and they share a collective dream for a bigger future.”
The youth summit was the second for Alek Kaai, 17, from Kealakehe High School.
“The Youth Summit was a good opportunity to meet others,” Kaai said. “I met a lot of friends in Lifeplan groups from all over the island.”
Through the Lifeplan program, he is now completing an internship at the Four Seasons as a culinary apprentice.
Michelle Reed, 16, from Waikoloa, said she has attended the Youth Summit since its inception and now has many friends from the experience.
“I like the different career speakers,” Reed said.
She said she also enjoys having the opportunity to interact with people from other groups. She is now in a career apprenticeship in the engineering department of the Four Seasons.
According to Mullin, Lifeplan is spreading, with 800 students involved in the program island wide.
“Hopefully, we will support a culture shift to where it is kind of cool to go for what you want and to make good choices,” Mullin said. “We support them in understanding that they are part of a much larger movement of Lifeplan.”