IMCOM Pacific Teens gain valuable experience, make new friends at Youth Leadership Forum
August 21, 2012
KILAUEA MILITARY CAMP, Hawaii (Aug. 21, 2012) -- High school students from several Pacific Region garrisons gathered here from July 18-24 for the annual Pacific Youth Leadership Forum.
The theme for this year's forum was "Renewable Energy - The Power of Youth."
The purpose of the forum was to connect teens from different backgrounds, discuss teen issues, provide leadership opportunities and help them develop their personal skills. Teens from garrisons in Alaska, Hawaii, Japan, Kwajalein and Korea attended.
The forum was open to teens ages 14-17 who demonstrated good character and behavior and were active participants in their garrison's Youth Program. Nearly 30 teens attended this year's forum.
Mark Ryales, the Youth Program specialist for IMCOM-Pacific Region, said the issues identification sessions were the prime reason the region brings the teens together.
"It starts at the garrisons," Ryales said. "Garrison Youth Councils determine three issues from each of their garrisons and then bring them to the Region Youth Leadership Forum. The forum discusses the issues and determines which are the top five in the Pacific Region; the others go back to the garrisons for resolution."
During their time in Hawaii the teens performed a technology project and a service learning project.
The technology project focused on renewable and sustainable energy projects. The teens visited the Pakini Nui Wind Farms on South Point to learn about wind-generated electricity. They also learned about Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, a process which uses differences in seawater temperature to generate electricity.
To cap their technology experience the teens had to build a wind turbine and use it to power a water pump.
"The kids designed them; whoever pumped the most water in 60 seconds won," Ryales said.
The service learning project took place in Hilo, where 29 teens joined volunteers from the Hilo Habitat for Humanity for a morning of hard work under a brilliant blue sky and blazing sun.
The project entailed removing screws and nails from used lumber and boards that Hawaii Community College donated, according to Julie Hugo, of Hilo Habitat for Humanity.
Hugo said that Hawaii Community College was renovating and the contractors performing the job could not dump the wood in a landfill. Habitat for Humanity was willing to accept it as a donation. The organization uses the lumber in its home building projects and sells it in its store for about 50 percent less than retail.
Rex Lauer, the co-chair of Hilo Habitat's construction committee, said that if there are no termites, mold or dry rot the used wood is just as good as new.
"It's cured, it can be used for lots of things like benches, table tops," Lauer said.
Before Habitat could reuse or sell the lumber all of the nails, screws and other metal had to be removed from it. Youth Leadership Forum teens helped with that.
"The kids help us by removing screws and nails and then sorting it by size," Hugo said. "They had to build saw horses and we taught them how to use the equipment. Some of them had never held a hammer until today so they love it."
The teens used hammers, electric drills and other tools to remove the hardware from the wood. When they'd removed all of the nails or screws a Habitat staffer inspected the wood and, if clean, told the student to pile it near a container Habitat owns.
One of the teens who helped, John Sholar from U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll, said he joined the Youth Leadership Forum to gain leadership experience before college and to give something back to his community.
"This is my first project with Habitat for Humanity," Sholar said. "I think it's awesome we can help people. This is direct and hands on. I'm having a good time."
Steven Colon, a high school junior from Schofield Barracks, Oahu also wanted to develop his leadership skills and give back to the community. He discovered another benefit to the forum -- meeting new people and making new friends.
"I'm kind of shy and stuck with my group at first but then I got to know the other kids and they were similar to me," Colon said. "They have the same issues and are not so different. I don't want to leave. We've only known each other a few days but I feel like I've known them my entire life."
Kaitlyn Nott, a YLF member from U.S. Army Garrison Daegu, Korea joined the Youth Leadership Forum this year for the same reason as Colon and Sholar.
"I wanted leadership experience before college and I wanted to do something for the community," Nott said. "I want to give back to the community that gave so much to me. I've learned that it's nice to receive but giving back is a greater experience."
Another teen who participated, Shannon Nolan from Torii Station, Okinawa, said the forum was fun and productive.
I learned a lot of stuff; we worked on issues like being able to transfer credits when we move and the lack of jobs in the PX for teenagers, Nolan said.
Nolan said she hoped to apply her leadership skills and what she learned at the forum to help improve Torii Station.
"Nothing is going to happen unless we do something about it," she said.
Halley Hine from Aliamanu Military Reservation, Oahu said this is the first time she's attended a Youth Leadership Forum. Like her fellow teens she shares a desire to make a difference in her community..
"I saw this as a way to do it," Hine said.
Hine also learned the value of teamwork.
"I got what it means to work as a team, to work with others," she said. "I have a lot in common with the other kids. This has been a wonderful experience."
Lourdes Ramirez, a high school junior from Fairbanks, Alaska, joined the YLF when she saw how much her friend gained from membership.
"I saw the skills she got, the confidence. I wanted to challenge myself and get confidence and skills," Ramirez said. "I feel good inside, I can't wait to tell my mom about this."
After the forum adjourned, Ryales reflected on it and the teens who participated.
"This was a sharp group of kids; they worked hard and played hard. There were no cliques, no conflicts. They worked very well together." Ryales said.
Ryales has been working with the Youth Leadership Forum for the past 11 years, four in the Pacific Region and seven at Fort McPherson, Ga.
"This is collectively the strongest group of leaders I've seen in 11 years; these kids earned the opportunity to come to Hawaii," he said. "And the Big Island was a great location for our technology and service learning project."