1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Hshhhhh…Stomp…Stomp…UuAey is the sound of the participants of Hawaii's Youth Impact Program Haka chanting a Polynesian tradition.

"Our inner cities have a lack of trust for institutions," said Ricky Ellison, founder of the Youth Impact Program. "Children between 9 to 14 need to be surrounded by the service members, student-athletes, and community leaders in coordination with the local community, academia, and the military so they are not foreign and instill trust in those institutions so they positively change their lives."

The 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command and 5th Battlefield Coordination Detachment recently collaborated with Hawaii's Youth Impact Program, held at the University of Hawaii campus from June 12-23. This two-week program aims to cultivate leadership, discipline, and mentorship skills among aspiring youth through various activities, including STEM and football. The Army's contributions to the program focus on mentorship and guidance, providing invaluable insights and support to the participants. By emphasizing personal and professional development, the program offers a supportive environment where participants can explore their potential and shape their future endeavors.

"It is important for service members to get involved with the community and give back to our youth. Motivate them to accomplish the goals and dreams they might have," said Sgt. 1st Class Ronal Sharma, a 94th AAMDC volunteer. "It doesn't matter what they choose to do, whether it's football, college, or the military."

An integral part of the Army's involvement in the Youth Impact Program is the emphasis on leadership and guidance. Through their collaboration with experienced military personnel who serve as mentors, participants have a unique opportunity to learn from individuals with a wealth of knowledge and experience. These mentors provide valuable insights, advice, and support, guiding the youth in their personal and professional journeys.

"This is my opportunity to shine even if it's just the tiniest light and to know that there's something in the participants' life," said Sgt. 1st Class Dominique Lee, a 5th BCD volunteer. "I want to provide them with an opportunity that brings them into a safe area, even if it's only for two weeks, so I can say that I care, I'm proud of you, and I believe in you because some kids don't even have that."

The mentorship aspect of the program helps participants develop strong role models, gain a deeper understanding of military service, and build lasting relationships that can positively influence their future endeavors.

"As a senior leader with many lower enlisted that came out here to volunteer, this is an opportunity for them to grow as not only a person but as a leader," said Lee. "Once they become a leader, they will have soldiers with problems, and I hope they learn patience."

Junior enlisted and newly promoted noncommissioned officers faced bringing order to elementary participants with whom they need rapport or authority. Communication and intrapersonal skills are different on the battlefield versus in a classroom.

"There was a learning curve for me in this program," said Sgt. ZaBarr Jones, a 94th AAMDC volunteer. "I don't have kids, nor have I had to deal with kids either much in my life, so trying to find a way to communicate effectively to them was a challenge. That's something I believe some of the other volunteers could agree on. However, we figured it out and learned valuable skills for the future."

On June 21, YIP participants traveled to the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii at Fort DeRussy and introduced to military history and equipment used on the island over the past 100 years. The youth toured the museum, where they learned about coastal artillery and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' role in developing the southern portion of Oahu.

Participants in the program are exposed to various military experiences, fostering the development of a strong work ethic and a sense of responsibility. The youth learn the importance of dedication, perseverance, and teamwork by engaging in challenging activities and tasks. This program serves as a platform for participants to harness their potential and explore their capabilities in a supportive environment. The experiences gained through the program instill a sense of discipline and accountability that can benefit them in various aspects of their lives.

"We come from all walks of life and all over the nation in the military. We are all different somehow, but because we wear this uniform, we work together as a team," said 1st Sgt. Walter Barrett, a 5th BCD volunteer. "All of you are from a different part of this island, and you are doing something similar likes us, working as a team."

The program offers participants multiple educational resources, empowering them with essential skills for future endeavors. Workshops on leadership, communication skills, and critical thinking are provided within a collegiate environment, enhancing the participants' knowledge and equipping them with the necessary tools to navigate future challenges. The program sets the stage for lifelong learning and personal development by fostering a thirst for knowledge and intellectual growth.

The impact of the military's collaboration with educational institutions extends far beyond the duration of the program. Participants not only gain valuable skills and knowledge, but they also develop a sense of purpose and community engagement. Many program participants choose to pursue successful careers in the military or seek higher education due to the experiences and lessons learned during their time there. These participants become ambassadors of positive change, inspiring others and actively giving back to their communities.

"We had multiple participants go to college and even join the military," said Darrien Mitchell, a motivational leader, military veteran, and social worker.

The partnership between the U.S. Army, the University of Hawaii, and Hawaii's Youth Impact Program exemplifies the community's commitment to inspire and develop future leaders. Through mentorship, diverse experiences, and educational opportunities, the program empowers youth, fosters personal growth, and cultivates a sense of responsibility. The long-term impact of this collaboration extends beyond the program's duration, with participants becoming catalysts for positive change within their communities. The dedication and contributions of the 94th AAMDC, 5th BCD, and the University of Hawaii serve as a testament to their commitment to shaping the next generation of leaders.