I was honored to be chosen as the first youth delegate from Hawaii to attend the Stone Soup Leadership Institute’s 7th Annual Youth Leadership Summit for Sustainable Development on Martha’s Vineyard.

Before traveling across the country, I was eager to meet people from different islands and culturally diverse backgrounds. I knew I would learn a lot but I wasn’t expecting just how much of an impact they would have on my life. I also didn’t expect to feel so comfortable sharing my own culture. That one-week was so full with pleasant surprises.

Upon seeing the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, I was amazed. I silently walked to the edge of the surf and paid my respects by chanting “Kumulipo,” an ancient Hawaiian chant describing the beginning of the world. My mom always taught me to ask for permission before entering a sacred place.

It was a moment that was innate and really special. It was my chance to share who I am, reveal my purpose and let Mother Earth know it. When I was then asked to share this practice with the other youth delegates, I was humbled, and excited that together we could learn to treat our planet with greater respect.

Before attending the Youth Summit I was asked to write about “What is my dream for my life, my island, and the world?” Those were tough questions to answer! No one had ever asked me before.

During the Youth Summit, I interacted with other youth delegates and guest speakers who had asked themselves these very same questions. They shared with me what they have done and are doing to make their dreams reality. What an inspiration!

Working along-side with the youth delegates from Vieques, Puerto Rico, Virgin Gorda, BVI and Nantucket as well as the sustainable development community of Martha’s Vineyard I have ideas on how to implement projects in my own community. Everyone was impressed to learn about sustainable development on the Big Island, in my community and at my school! They all want to come for a visit, especially in the winter.

The Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative inspired me to be a leader in my community. They made me realize my full potential.

I now feel that I am a part of a network of people who have and will continue to bring change to their communities and eventually to the world.   I’ve met leaders of the future. I now understand that in this world it’s who you know that matters in order to make things happen. 

I know the Stone Soup Leadership Institute will support me as I carry out my plans to build a better world. Along the way I want to connect the Institute with the leaders in my community. By establishing partnerships and broadening our support system our mission to build a more sustainable world will become a reality. For more information: http://www.soup4worldinstitute.com

Reflection Questions from the Youth Leadership Summit

My dream for my life is:
To achieve a better quality of life while being completely self sustainable.

My academic goals for school are:
This coming school year I am enrolled in Running Start and will be taking college classes at the West Hawaii Community College. During my senior year at West Hawaii Explorations Academy (WHEA) I will complete a series of artwork expressing the promotion of sustainable practices. This will be my Senior Project which is necessary in order for me to graduate with a BOE diploma. After graduating from WHEA I plan on majoring in Environmental Studies and Art History at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. While in college I hope to study abroad for a year in France.

My professional goals are:
I want to work for an independent organization, such as Greenpeace, committed to the protection, maintenance, and restoration of the Earth or to become an Art History Professor. Whatever my career, I believe in the importance of community service and plan to return to West Hawaii to be actively involved in my community.

My dream for my island is:
I want the people of Hawaii to appreciate the beauty of our island. Hawaii has all the resources for its people to be self-sustainable. We must use the new technology of today and embrace the traditional sustainable practices to make Hawaii a better place to live.

My dream for the world is:
I want the power of art to make the world a more peaceful, sustainable, and colorful place.

About the author: Taylor Wainani Traub, who goes by “Wai,” is 16 years old and lives in Ocean View on the Big Island. She was nominted to attend the Youth Summit by West Hawaii Explorations Academy Green Team Adviser Ben Duke and One Island Sustainability Center. A junior at WHEA, her school project focused on a series of artwork to promote sustainable practices.