On Friday, October 12, youth from around O'ahu and the neighbor islands gathered at the State Capitol in downtown Honolulu for the 25th annual Hawai'i Children and Youth Summit. The hands-on civic experience was part of the Stevens Global Leadership Program. Among the highlights of the day were students from The Priory being selected as having the best solutions for issues facing the environment. Their contributions will be included in the Keiki Caucus Bills of Resolutions in January 2019. Stevens Global Leadership Program.
The Priory Upper School AP Government and Global Girls-Global Action Instructor Lanaly Cabalo brought her students and Priory in the City students to the summit in order to give them an opportunity to gain multiple perspectives on issues through interactions with other youth in the community.
"I want them to be able to understand the world beyond their immediate environment," she said.
"It also gave the students the chance to network and collaborate with students of diverse backgrounds from schools across the state. By doing this, they were able to connect what they learned to how these issues affect children and our future on a global."
The Hawaiʻi Childen and Youth Summit gives local keiki an opportunity for civic engagement while introducing them to topics currently affecting the islands. The summit was co-convened through the Keiki Caucus by Representative Matt LoPresti – who was in attendance and gave remarks – as well as Senator Karl Rhoads.
The Keiki Caucus is a non-profit that works with youth to develop a package of legislation that is later introduced by its members, Na Lei Aloha Foundation and several other planners and contributors from around the Hawaiian islands.
A Day of Inspiration
An inspiring quote by former President Barack Obama was featured on the cover of the summit materials and summed up the theme: "One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it can change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world."
The overarching goal of the summit was to educate students on the issues that affect their communities, schools and public policy, and empower them to have input on these topics.
The event's welcome packet stated that "today, we look forward to hearing you share your ideas about what Hawai'i needs to become a better place to live, learn and grow. Your voices can and will make a difference in Hawai'i's future."
After an introduction and welcome remarks from the Director of Hawaii Youth Services Judith F. Clark, students sat for an opening panel where topics from disabilities to homeliness, the environment and even after-school care programs were discussed. Students were encouraged to take notes and ask questions while pondering sophisticated topics usually reserved for adult conversations.
After a short break, students were given seven topics to choose from and then separated into breakout session to discuss their topic. The choices were healthy body, healthy mind; homelessness and housing, safety and security; education – facilities; education – programs and curriculum; equality, rights and diversity; and protecting the environment.
Each group was given time to research their topics and then had a round robin discussion. Students prepared and presented five-minute presentations that covered three to six main topics. The Priory students selected and presented on educational facilities and protecting the environment.
The educational facilities team was asked how the school facilities in Hawai'i could be improved for students. During their presentation, students wrestled with the "places and spaces" of their school. Students typically spend roughly 1,000 hours per year in school and deciding how to improve the space they spend so much time in came naturally. Having clean, bug-free classrooms, beautiful grounds to enjoy and air conditioning topped the list.
The environmental protection group was asked how to preserve the natural beauty of Hawai'i for the youth of today and future generations. Students reacted with a list of the top six priorities that could be done to protect our environment. The top six priorities they identified were: sustainable resources, more recycling bins in public areas, open opportunities for environmental restoration, removal of invasive species, coral bleaching and build smarter not bigger.
After the presentations and questions, students and faculty were given stickers and asked to vote on the priorities within the seven main summit topics. Stickers were then counted, and the top five priorities were announced.
Topping the list – with an overwhelming sticker count – was sustainable resources from The Priory's environmental protection group. The top priorities identified at the summit will be shared with the Keiki Caucus. The information will be complied in November and December into a Bills of Resolutions to be introduced in January.
"I want all of you to know," Judith Clark said in closing, "that this summit is not, I hope, the end of your involvement in this process. Please contact the legislators in your district and encourage them to focus on what you care about and urge them to vote to support your issues."