If you saw my post about interning last summer, you may remember that I was finishing up my first year of graduate school at the School of Social Work and searching for more community connection and grounding. I found much of this connection and grounding through the Foundation, and my experience with them turned out to be an invaluable jumping off point in my professional trajectory.
Since last summer, the Foundation referred me to Harold K.L. Castle Foundation for a consulting project, where I was able to utilize data collection and evaluation skills I developed through my experience with the Foundation and my schooling. Additionally, I was inspired to join FLOW (Future Leaders Optimizing Well-being), a year-long hands-on research program at the School of Social Work. Through these experiences and increased community involvement, I began this summer’s internship ready to dive in.
The summer started off with self-paced research projects and various meetings. The projects allowed me to further educate myself about local, statewide and national environmental resources, and the meetings ranged from Foundation-specific to networking-specific. Everyone at the Foundation was very intentional about including me and connecting me with folks that I might have aligned interests with and/or opportunities for future employment. This sort of thinking comes naturally to them, and I often observe them connecting like-minded people who may be resources for one another, both personally and professionally.
As the summer went on, I moved on to other projects such as helping organize a service learning day with Hoʻokuaʻāina, where I had a great time reconnecting with the Wilhelm family – and getting our hands dirty together! Later on, I was also able to participate in and work on the following:
“Food therapy” event with the Board, led by Mark Noguchi
Research projects on environmental education resources, grant deadlines, best practices for leadership transition, and ideas for better alumni tracking
Another project that stood out for me was the Foundation’s first ever intern alumni luncheon. We convened four out of six intern alumni spanning from summer 2011 to the present (myself included) in order to talk story about their professional journeys and ask for feedback on the Foundation’s summer internship program. Janis and the team did a great job of creating a safe space for truthful and open feedback (a specialty of theirs), but we honestly struggled to come up with areas of improvement. We each echoed similar responses, such as the value of high-level networking and the chance to connect with Partners and to get involved with hands-on projects. We shared the importance of having an employer who advocates for you, who is open and honest, and who supports you in building professional connections. Even the chance to have lunch with other intern alumni and reconnect with the Foundation staff felt like a rare gift, and something that many of us had never experienced with previous employers.
Now, as I prepare to transition to the next phase of my professional career, I find myself reflecting on an activity we did at the intern alumni luncheon. We each shared six words to describe ourselves and my words were “modern Hawaiian learning how to navigate.” We are navigating through tough waters these days and this summer’s experience has reminded me that once you become a part of the Hauʻoli Mau Loa ‘ohana, they become a lasting resource to help you navigate through “this thing called life” (to borrow a quote from the musician – Prince).
Moving forward, I plan to continue working on various creative personal projects while searching for my next ‘ohana organization. The Foundation provided me with all the tools and connections I could have hoped for, and now I look forward to discovering where I will navigate to next.
Mahalo nui loa once again to Hau‘oli Mau Loa Foundation, their Board, their Partners, and their extended community that I’ve met and reconnected with this summer! It has truly been a pleasure.