When Mariah Ng returned home from college this summer, the 2015 Kamehameha Schools Kapālama graduate hoped to “learn more about myself and increase my confidence” by participating in the Kāpili ‘Oihana Internship Program (KOIP).
Ng recently earned a bachelorʻs degree in psychology from Whitman College in Washington, and put her experience to work as a KOIP intern with Hoʻōla Nā Pua Advocacy and Volunteer Programs.
“I was on the preventative and education side of things and worked on a fifth-grade curriculum to be integrated into English classrooms to build resiliency and values, and to instill the ideas of self-empowerment at a younger age in our Hawaiian youth,” Ng says. “The average age of entry into sex trafficking is 12 years old, so education needs to start earlier at fifth grade. Hoʻōla Nā Pua plans to pilot the curriculum this year.”
KOIP recently completed its 11th year of providing Native Hawaiian college students with the opportunity to apply academic experience in a real-world setting by working with community organizations to increase students’ hiring potential upon graduation.
KOIP aligns with Kamehameha Schools’ dedication to foster enduring relationships with community partners who share values and the commitment to education and the community to improve educational systems that help develop future Native Hawaiian leaders through career opportunities, including internships, job shadows, career presentations, mentorships and employment possibilities. The 2019 edition of the program included 140 interns, a 26% increase from the field of 111 in 2018, which worked at 76 host organizations over the summer.
“Education is the pursuit of knowledge, the answer is clear: ma ka hana ka ʻike, by doing things we acquire knowledge,” said Kaeo Duarte, KS vice president of community engagement and resources, while addressing attendees at the KOIP Hōʻike. “I see our Lāhui across every industry segment, from ʻāina to technology to accounting to media to health and education. That is what’s going to build our Lāhui! I’m excited, and I look forward to one of you taking over my job one day.”
At the recent KOIP Hō‘ike, interns, businesses and KS staff demonstrated the importance of and resulting success from cultivating and maintaining relationships. Through KOIP, interns engaged in enriched opportunities to build their professional networks, develop transferable skills, and create solutions to real-world challenges. KOIP also exposes students to cultural experiences that contribute to the development of future leaders who recognize and embody the foundational values of kūpuna in their communities and workplace.
“Mariah was excellent. She came to us with a Kanaka Maoli perspective that I don’t naturally have, as well as background in curriculum development in education,” says Tim Hitchens, MSW, education program manager at Hoʻōla Nā Pua, which works to prevent the trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors. “She really led this project to develop curriculum in a beautiful way by incorporating Hawaiian values, the framework that’s more natural to Hawaiian learners, and collected resources to help non-native Hawaiian teachers teach this curriculum.”
As KOIP continues to grow, so do the program participants who make great strides toward forging career pathways during their work over the summer.
Jesse Mikasobe-Kealiʻinohomoku is a recent KOIP intern with Mālama Learning Center studying food system sustainability through MA‘O Organic Farms and the University of Hawai‘i-West O‘ahu. He is on pace to graduate in 2021, and the Waianae High School graduate plans on using his research on rhizobacteria and his hands-on experience to bolster native ecology restoration efforts.
“Try your best, try your hardest, and if it makes you uncomfortable that’s the best part, because that’s where you grow,” says Mikasobe-Kealiʻinohomoku.