KAPOLEI, Hawaii (Sept. 6, 2013) -- Legislators, senior military officials, educators, community leaders and other distinguished guests joined together inside The Salvation Army-Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, here, Aug. 29, to take part in the 12th annual Joint Venture Education Forum (JVEF).

JVEF is a partnership between Hawaii's military community, public schools and other community organizations.

Initiated in 1998 by the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, in partnership with Adm. Dennis Blair, then-commander, U.S. Pacific Command, and former state superintendent of education Paul LeMahieu, the cooperative effort is charged with developing and fostering a committed, empowered and involved partnership between local military and public schools in the pursuit of quality education for students.

Since 2000, Hawaii public schools have benefited from $58 million appropriated by the Department of Defense to fund programs and partnerships that promote quality education through teacher training, computers in the classrooms, facility upgrades and other initiatives.

This year's forum, hosted by executive co-chairs Col. Jaimie Pease, director of manpower and personnel, USPACOM, and Kathryn Matayoshi, superintendent, Hawaii State Department of Education, focused on "Innovative Partnerships to Build Future Leaders," a theme garrison leadership believes goes hand-in-hand with Army values.

"The most important thing is creating opportunities, and these partnerships show children an opportunity for their future and give them a way ahead. It gives them a goal that they can reach for," said Howard Johnston, deputy garrison commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.

"This is a great partnership here," agreed Lt. Col. Kenneth Sanderson, executive officer, USAG-HI.

"(These partnerships) help children understand that the military is here as a support system and that the military believes that education is an important step in a person's growth," Sanderson explained. "As they see these professions of arms inside the school districts, then students aspire to be that top 1 percent of the population, and that's teaching them selfless service, moral courage, ethics and values."

During the event, presenters and guest speakers, which included state Rep. K. Mark Takai and U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, all spoke about the importance of the JVEF partnership and the continued need to promote understanding and support for military children and families within Hawaii's public schools, despite ever-present challenges.

"Over the past 13 years, JVEF has built playgrounds, purchased textbooks, developed school transition centers, educated teachers and counselors on military culture and, most importantly, helped develop the next generation of future leaders," said Duckworth, via a prerecorded message.

"It's because of programs like JVEF that our nation's future leaders will have the skills, discipline and integrity to move the nation forward," Duckworth added. "It is inspiring to see so many individuals and organizations join together to make an enduring impact on Hawaii's children."

Jennifer Goto-Sabas, longtime chief of staff for Inouye, provided the keynote address, during which she highlighted the strides JVEF has made in recent years and how she knows the late senator would be proud of the direction the program is headed.

"The senator believed very, very strongly that Hawaii's public school children, military and civilian, should be educated together … because a community divided will be very difficult to bring back together, not only on education, but on a host of other issues important to both our military and civilian communities," Goto-Sabas said, to the 300-plus attendees.

"He would be so pleased that you are back here again, working together on behalf of the children," Goto-Sabas added. "You proved him right, that it really was never about the money, but instead, truly about the power of people working together to do something greater than themselves."

JVEF concluded by recognizing the men and women of the armed forces, as well as educators and community members who have each played a role in enhancing the education and character of na keiki o ka aina (the children of Hawaii) throughout the past year.

"I had the good fortune of working for Dan Inouye for more than 25 years, and he instilled many, many lessons in all those who worked for him," Goto-Sabas said. "He would often say that public service is indeed the most noble service and calling, and that the work that we do has a positive impact in the everyday lives of people.

"To all of you, you do exactly that every day as you support our children, the next generation of leaders," Goto-Sabas stated, "and knowing that, the future is bright."