Twelve ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY students had the unique opportunity to take part in Hawaiʻi Business Magazine’s CEO of the Year virtual event on December 11, 2020. The event honored Micah Kāne, CEO and President of Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, as the magazine’s 2020 CEO of the Year. It also brought together some of Hawaiʻi’s most influential leaders for a panel discussion about the important issues facing our community.
ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY was proud to be a Student Sponsor of the event, a first for the school. Prior to the event, Elijah Esmeralda ʻ21, Preeya Prasad ʻ21, and Gavin Suga ʻ21 recorded and edited a congratulatory video message to Kāne, which Hawaiʻi Business Magazine used to help promote the event.
“We decided to sponsor the event after learning about the philosophical intention behind the recognition,” explained Gerald Teramae, Head of School. “We felt that the honoree, Micah Kāne, and his work in the community perfectly aligned with the core values and mission of IPA. Our core values and 5 Agreements exemplify a culture where values matter and we always seek ways to reinforce and make relevant these values and beliefs as one community.”
As part of the sponsorship, the students were invited to participate in a pre-event virtual discussion with Kāne, as well as Steve Petranik, Editor of Hawaiʻi Business Magazine and Anthony Bagnoli, Director of Events. The students were challenged to brainstorm what they felt were the top issues that Hawaiʻi needs to address to improve our community, providing a unique opportunity for them to share their concerns with Hawaiʻiʻs community leaders.
“It was important that the students have an opportunity to dialogue with Mr. Kāne and contribute to the panel discussions,” shared Teramae. “Relevant and great educational opportunities help students to rationalize the connections to what they are learning and experiencing in school.”
Following the pre-event discussion, the students joined more than 250 participants at the virtual main event where they heard from Kāne and a panel of community leaders, including Leslie Wilcox, CEO of PBS Hawaiʻi; Ray Vara, CEO and President of Hawaiʻi Pacific Health; John Leong, CEO of Kupu and Pono Pacific; and Dr. Lynn Babington, President of Chaminade University.
During the event, Petranik, who led the discussion, shared the issues the IPA students raised during their breakout sessions with the panelists for their input.
“We asked them what are the important changes they would like to see,” explained Petranik. “Here’s one of the more challenging ones they came up with – ʻHelping the homeless, regardless of addiction or abuse or other reasons we need to help them have a better quality of lifeʻ.”
“Another major challenge they see is to make housing more affordable and accessible to local people,” he continued. “They want to see a decrease in the cost of living, and an economy that is not as reliant on tourism and imports – they want something that is more sustainable.”
Kāne agreed with the students’ concerns. “I think they were pretty spot on. It’s clear they’re astute to what’s happening around them,” he said. “We should take some guidance from them. They hit on 4-5 issues that are all top 10 issues that our state needs to address. I hand them some kudos for that.”
Dr. Brandy Sato, Secondary Principal, was proud of the students. “Mr. Kane and the other CEO panelists praised our students’ identification of Hawaiʻi’s challenges,” shared Sato. “Our students proved that they not only understand our biggest problems, but are developing into future leaders who will find solutions.”
The experience was a valuable one and was inspiring to many of these future leaders.
“One important thing I took away from this is that it’s not too early to start helping others,” shared Karenna Meyermann ’23. “I can help others and the community as a student right now and as an adult in the future. I participate in service projects through the school, like Operation Giveback, so I could make a service project of my own to maybe make a difference.”
“Something I took inspiration from is the example they set as leaders,” explained Ryan McMann ’23. “I found it extremely inspirational that, through their work, they were able to unite people for a common cause, despite their differences in beliefs and ideas. Today, that seems like a rare skill, so to be able to learn from people who possess that skill is truly honoring and inspiring.”
“I think that it’s really important for students to understand that they don’t have to do something big to make a difference in their community. The small acts matter just as much as the big acts, and it’s important to realize that,” said Elijah Esmeralda ’21. “Every person can do something small to make a big difference everyday – like volunteering or donating items – to help the community.”
“We hope that the students who had the opportunity and privilege to participate in the CEO of the Year event will be able to experience real-world and relevant connections to IPA’s mission, vision, and core values, as well as learn to become compassionate and collaborative leaders in our community,“ said Teramae.
Participating in the event were Sebastian Banquil ‘23, Karenna Meyermann ‘23, Ryan McMann ‘23, Maddie Mizon ‘22, Tyler Vanyo ‘22, Preeya Prasad ‘21, Daniel Jimenez ‘21, Elijah Esmeralda ‘21, Kyler Suerth ‘21, Kaitlyn Taaca ‘21, Kylee Fellows ‘21, and Allyson Sasaki ‘21. Also taking part were Gerald Teramae, Dr. Brandy Sato, Michelle Bradley, Gerika Kaopua, Leisha Bento, Kelsey Uehira, and Be-Jay Kodama.