Story and photo by Bob McElroy
USAG-Pohakuloa Public Affairs
KILAUEA MILITARY CAMP, Hawaii — High school students from several Pacific region garrisons gathered, here, recently, for an 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 who were active participants in their garrison’s Youth Program.
Nearly 30 teens attended this year’s forum.
Mark Ryales, youth program specialist for Installation Management Command-Pacific Region, said issues identification sessions are the prime reason the region brings teens together.
“It starts at the garrisons,” Ryales explained. “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. 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 that uses differences in seawater temperature to generate electricity.
To cap their technology experience, the teens built a wind turbine and used 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.
Steven Colon, a high school junior from Schofield Barracks, Oahu, came to the forum to develop his leadership skills and to 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.”
Halley Hine from Aliamanu Military Reservation, Oahu, said 2012 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, adding that she 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.”
After the forum adjourned, Ryales reflected on it and the teens who participated.
“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. “(This) was a great location for our technology and service learning project.”