by Christine Hanakawa
‘Ahaolelo’ means “to come together for a meeting” in Hawaiian, and the Hawaiʻi 4-H Ahaolelo Leadership Conference is rich in that tradition, playing an important role in the development of our 4-H members.
Held at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa campus, the Ahaolelo provides local youths who’ve completed 8th to 12th grade with an excellent opportunity to meet other 4-H members, make new friends, exchange ideas, develop communication and leadership skills – and learn more about UH and college life.
Last year, the Ahaolelo switched to a virtual Aliʻi Ceremony due to COVID-19, and merged with a 3-day online conference with Idaho and Washington 4-H’s STAC (State Teen Association Conference) to allow more teen participants.
This year, Hawaiʻi 4-H formed an Ahaolelo Planning Team, with the theme “Overcoming Challenges, Shaping the Future.” The events included a community service project with the ceremony in the evening.
“Although this was a very difficult year, we used our 4-H skills to overcome challenges and shape the future,” said Kaitlin Kitagawa of Maui, who was an emcee at the Aliʻi Ceremony. In all, 40 teen delegates, adult volunteers, and 4-H Agents and Staff were able to attend. The delegates joined virtual workshops and were inspired by the special presenters:
- Dr. Lauren Tamamoto, 4-H alumni from the Teddy Bears 4-H Club and Kapiʻolani Community College Food Scientist and Research Chef who collaborates with CTAHR.
- Myself, presenting on “Head” life skills such as solving problems, making decisions, and practicing creativity.
- Rebecca Kanenaka, past 4-H Club Leader of the Golden Ripples 4-H Club, retired microbiologist, and currently a 4-H Volunteer Resource Leader.
- Hallie Cristobal, Kauaʻi 4-H and Intergenerational Junior Extension Agent, presenting on foods and nutrition.
- Carli Yamamoto, 4-H alumni from the Aloha Kids 4-H Club and athletic trainer at Konawaena High School, presenting on empathy, determination, and resiliency.
The speakers shared engaging and hands-on learning, referencing their 4-H experiences, the challenges they faced, and how they overcame and moved forward. They also shared about their careers and how they got to where they are today.
“It kept the attention of the audience well and the workshops were fun!” wrote one 4-H participant.
To gracefully end the 4-H Ahaolelo, we also held an Aliʻi Ceremony in the evening at the UHM campus, with virtual links for participants on the Neighbor Islands. The ceremony is another 4-H tradition, called “Gifts to the Aliʻi.” in which we recognize and honor guests who exemplify the 4-H values of leadership and community service.
This year, Hawaiʻi 4-H was fortunate to have as our guest State Senator Lynn DeCoite, who we thanked and honored for her support and dedication to 4-H programs, not just in her Maui County district but throughout the whole state.
“It’s a badge of honor from each and one of you,” shared Sen. DeCoite. “I love this conference, and I love the fact that you folks have 4-H Ahaolelo …(which) means ‘to come together’ … As I learned all my life in farming and ranching, we all need to come together to make a difference.”
Past Aliʻi date back to the 1950s and include Barry Taniguchi, Derek Kurisu, Larry Price, former State Senator Suzann Chun Oakland, and the late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka and U.S. Representative Patsy Mink. View the list of Recognized Aliʻi here.
Senator DeCoite let the participants and special guests know that “when the road gets bumpy, you just buckle up and hold on tight. That is what 4-H is about. It’s learning about all aspects of overcoming challenges, challenges that we use to shape our future.”
She also emailed the next day, “I wanted to let you know how grateful I was to be recognized as the 4-H Ali’i last night. 4-H is near and dear to my heart. I appreciate all of you for your hard work and contributions to the kids in making sure 4-H continues on.”
I want to thank our other guests for helping make the Aliʻi Ceremony a special night, including Dr. Nicholas Comerford, CTAHR Dean and Director for Research and Cooperative Extension; Dr. Jeff Goodwin, Interim Associate Dean and Associate Director for Cooperative Extension; the County Extension Administrators; Hawaiʻi 4-H Foundation; Hawaiʻi 4-H Alumni Association; Hawaiʻi State 4-H Leaders Federation; and Hawaiʻi State 4-H Livestock Council.