Waking up at 4 a.m. was definitely not on my list of fun things to do this spring break, but I’m so glad I did. I experienced the amazing opportunity of accompanying a woman who spends every morning on my television screen. Lost in the excitement of being with KITV’s Morning News Anchor Lara Yamada, the memory of lugging myself out of bed was soon forgotten.

I was lucky enough to be one of four students invited by the Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative (SHYLI) to join its third-annual Job Shadowing Day. On March 17, Sherry Anne Pancho, Juanito Moises Jr., Alex Siordia and I took a big step closer to our future careers. Each of us was given the chance to be mentored by professionals in our fields of interest.

Oceanit graciously hosted our two aspiring engineers, Sherry and Juanito. Sherry wants to be a bio-medical engineer, designing prosthetics. She was moved after a neighbor, whose legs were lost in the war at Afghanistan, passed away. “I want to help the people facing life-threatening situations like that.” Sherry was touched when Ocean it engineer Frank Price explained how he designs lasers that improve brain function.

SHYLI Reception

Participants in the Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative: from left, Oceanit Director Ian Kitajima, State Director for Sen. Mazie Hirono Alan Yamamoto, Marianne Larned, executive director of SHYLI and students Juanito Moises Jr., Cara Phillips and Sherry Anne Payson. Oceanit Founder Pat Sullivan is on the right, and student Alex Siordia takes part from Washington via video conference on the screen above.

Ian Kitajima

In May, Sherry graduates from Honoka’a High School on Hawaii Island. As vice president of the National Honor Society, she will be the first in her family to attend college. In fact, after her second job shadowing the next day at W.H. Keck Observatory, she caught a flight to St. Louis for a college tour.

Juanito is exploring both Mechanical and Civil Engineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she is a first-year student and a sophomore, thanks to Waipahu High School’s Early College Program. At Oceanit, Juanito learned about the world of engineering from the experts: Dan Kokubun and Ed Pier.

During lunch Juanito enjoyed learning from Jordon Moniuszko, an environmental engineer who was in a similar position ten years ago: an 18-year-old college student who possessed skill, but needed support in the right direction.

Juanito and Sherry both really enjoyed exploring Oceanit’s laboratory, where they were exposed to the different experiments being conducted, equipment being used and technologies being built. Being around innovations let them see the actual work of an engineer. “It was a really great experience for me to be around professional engineers,” says Juanito. “They were really nice, cool, funny and crazy – in a positive way. They really enjoy what they do and how that leads to being successful people.”


Student Alex Siordia, left, and U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in Washington, D.C.

Alex Siordia

Alex Siordia, a SHYLI alumnus from Hawaii Island’s Waimea Middle School and Hawaii Preparatory Academy, is now a freshman at Boston University pursuing a major in Political Science. As the first in his family to attend college, he plans to one day be a U.S. senator.

For his job shadow day experience, Alex traveled to Washington, D.C., to be with Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono. “What impressed me most about Sen. Hirono was that she was truly interested in who I was and what I hoped to be in the future,” he said, adding, “Meeting in her office further solidified my goal to become a U.S. senator.”

Lara Yamada and Cara Phillips

KITV 4 Anchor Lara Yamada, left, and student Cara Phillips after a morning newscast.

KITV 4 News

For my Job Shadow Day, I was in awe that Lara Yamada, an accomplished field journalist for KITV 4 News, was willing to take me under her wing. My day started in the dark control rooms, watching producers feed information to cameramen, anchors and field reporters. I saw firsthand the importance of diligence and careful attention to detail.

Later in the studio, sitting in the front seat of the show was fascinating. I saw what goes on behind the scenes, like the green screen the weather reporters refer to and the microphones strapped to anchors’ legs, so the audience can’t see them. And how reporters interact during commercial breaks.

My favorite part was being with Lara and hearing what she loves about being a journalist. I was touched when she shared her passion and goals as a successful writer: “Persistence, curiosity and a drive to understand the truth — the real truth.”

To complete our day we all gathered for a reception at Oceanit where we shared the highlights and our lessons learned. Even Alex joined us from Boston via video chat, even though it was 10:30 p.m. EST. He was able to personally thank Sen. Hirono through her state director, Alan Yamamoto. Also attending the SHYLI Reception was Oceanit Founder, Patrick Sullivan who shared his commitment to providing STEM jobs for Hawaii youth.

This is the second year that Oceanit’s Senior Executive, Ian Kitajima has hosted SHYLI’s Job Shadow Day.

“Through SHYLI I’ve met a future governor of the State of Hawaii, a future U.S. senator, a future CEO of a social enterprise, an environmental evangelist, a future TV/print journalist, a bio-medical engineer and green engineer and many of today’s thoughtful community leaders, all working together to prepare the next generation of Hawaii leaders,” said Kitajima. “I feel hopeful. I feel inspired! Mahalo to the Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative. Keep doing what you’re doing.”

Because of the experience from this Job Shadowing Day, I am a step closer to understanding what it takes to be a journalist. I look forward to building my way to that kind of future during my first semester of college next fall. I am so grateful that SHYLI thought of me as a candidate for this opportunity, because there is so much I learned about the profession and myself.

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