Ulumau class IX members pose for a photo at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park during their opening retreat. (COURTESY PHOTO BY SCOTT CAIRNS)
Ulumau founder Mark McGuffie talks to Nancy Carr-Smith during the retreat in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park during the Sept. 14-15 weekend. (COURTESY PHOTO BY SCOTT CAIRNS)
Retreatants from the Ulumau Class IX work on a theme for their Hawaii Island Leadership Series year. (COURTESY PHOTO BY SCOTT CAIRNS)
Members of the Hawaii Island Leadership Series discuss work during their retreat at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Sept 13-15. (COURTESY PHOTO BY SCOTT CAIRNS)
Kanani Aton, Mitch Kanehailua, Scott Cairns, Cindy Tavares, Sam Murray, Bob Bonar and Jim Murray join in a blessing during the Ulumau Class IX Orientation Celebration at the HPA Isaacs Art Center in Waimea on Sept. 5. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Daniel Akaka Jr., with his wife, Anna, right, gives a blessing during the Ulumau Class IX Orientation Celebration at the HPA Isaacs Art Center in Waimea on Sept. 5. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
The Ulumau Class IX poses for a photo during the orientation celebration at the HPA Isaacs Art Center in Waimea on Sept. 5. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Members from several classes pose for a photo at the orientation on Sept. 5. During the retreat, new class members were welcomed by Ulumau alumni from many classes. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Kei-Lin Cerf, Mitch Kanehailua and Susan Cox, all Ulumau alumni, pose for a photo during the orientation and welcome for class IX. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
If you scroll through the alumni list of the Hawaii Island Leadership Series – Ulumau, you’ll probably recognize many of the past participants’ names. The men and women who have been through the program are a dynamic bunch and in the top of their fields.
Now in its 10th year, there are about 115 alumni from both the public and private sector of all ages and backgrounds that have been through the leadership program, but they all have one thing in common – they are all proven servant leaders who are quietly, humbly making a difference in Hawaii and in the lives of others by giving back.
According to Mark McGuffie, the Hawaii Island Leadership Series founder, the name “Ulumau,” meaning “perpetuating growth,” was given to the program by his friend, Mikahala Roy. He said his intention, with the help of a five-person planning team, was to create a series just for Hawaii Island imbued in Hawaiian culture and history.
“It is about volunteerism and building healthy communities – understanding and learning from each other, ” McGuffie said.
They are now on their ninth class, with an average of 14 participants in each class.
The unique aspects of the program are many. Its core values include servant leadership, Hawaiian culture, community and prosperity for society. Topics covered include: Hawaiian values and history, public and private education, government, health and human services, the judicial system, economic diversity, quality of life and future plans for Hawaii.
The most important aspects of the program, though, are the field trips. There, participants experience firsthand the needs and priorities of Hawaii Island’s multifaceted community.
“The intention when I created this was to really expand the ranks of community leadership in view of the whole, as opposed to just having it conducted in a meeting room or a hotel,” McGuffie said. “It is really to get into places where you don’t normally go — to see and meet people that you don’t normally meet, and spend the day together examining one particular program.”
Field trips in each of the areas have included: education visits to both public, private and charter schools; economic diversity visits to Kahua Ranch and Parker Ranch, and W. M. Keck Observatory; government trips to the mayor’s office, and opportunities to understand the legislative process, and health care trips to the West Hawaii Community Health System.
McGuffie said that the yearlong monthly sessions are designed to physically bring the class around the island, starting with the first three-day retreat in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which he said is strategically planned to give them a chance to appreciate that “creation is continuing.”
During the Volcanoes National Park retreat at the start of each year, they learn an oli and are taught the cultural significance of the area. The retreat also helps them to get to know one another, and allows them uninterrupted time to plan out what they would like to achieve over the year in addition to the curriculum.
“The beauty in this series is the intention of connection. There are so many resources on this island, yet there is a disconnect, and this class was established to bridge that gap,” said Jaisy Jardine, a class IX participant and the director of public relations for The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, in a blog she wrote after this year’s class IX three-day retreat, from Sept. 13 to 15.
Each class not only chooses a Hawaiian name to represent them, but they also decide on a project in an area of specialization that they can research and study, and structure a program to help meet community needs. Some past projects have been based in much-needed areas such as affordable housing, homelessness, and extracurricular and mentoring programs for youth.
“It is not really an observing class, but a doing class, “McGuffie said of the class project.
McGuffie said that over the years, Ulumau has built a network within Hawaii Island to find solutions to community challenges.
“This (the experience) has expanded their knowledge and hopefully, their incentive to confront the needs of the community,” McGuffie said. “It is complex and it takes a lot of dedication, but hopefully this will help precipitate some improvement.”
Holly Algood, president of Ulumau alumni, said the leaders are handpicked from across the island.
“They are looking for people who are in a leadership position, or their business has identified them as a community leader, or they are already doing volunteer work because the program is all about being a servant leader,” said Algood. “They have made a strong community commitment.”
Algood said prospective participants must fill out a detailed application. In addition to already having proven experience as servant leaders, they also must have lived on the island for at least three years and cannot be planning to leave.
Alumni participation is a strong component of the program, and they not only support ongoing activities, but mentor new members.
David Tarnas, who was originally chosen to run the first orientation class, said leadership series was well planned from the start, and that he has seen many great leaders emerge from its inspiration.
“It has stayed consistent to its roots,” Tarnas said. “That shows how timeless the values are that are adopted by the program.”
He said the program as been sustained over 10 years because, with its mission of helping to cultivate community leaders, people see it as meaningful.
Tarnas said that though the program initially started with the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce, it has been sponsored by the Friends of the Future for more than half of its existence. He described Friends of the Future as an important component of the Hawaii Island community that, like the backing of a quilt, is the cause of the brightly patterned colors of the many important programs it supports.
At the orientation on Sept. 5 at Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s Isaacs Art Center, the room was filled with more than 50 alumni, who turned out to meet the new 14 members of Class IX and to see old friends.
Daniel Akaka Jr., who helped with the initial development of the program, said he appreciates the program because it helps to nurture Hawaii Island community leaders.
“Everyone has talents and gifts that they don’t realize they have,” Akaka said. “(This program) gives them a head start and then lets them go… It helps them on the path that they were meant to be on. Sometimes you need a little nudge and people who will help you with your innate abilities, so I think that is what Ulumau has done. It helps nurture people and guide them on the path that was meant for them.”
Lisa Nahoopii, from Class VI in 2008, said she was encouraged to apply to Ulumau by her superior.
“I loved it,” she said of her experience. “We got to learn about leadership from different people. When I was little, my kumu used to tell me, ‘Wherever you go, make sure you do your best to leave it better than you found it.’ The difference (our class) made was not huge, but it is about the little things that make a difference.”
Gregory Chun, who was part of the first class in 2003, said he chooses to continue to be involved with Ulumau and to encourage new classes because the experience was invaluable to him.
“When you create a network (like Ulumau), in the course of your own work, you know you can just pick up the phone and call someone with the same values,” Chun said. “It is a tremendous resource.”
Looking forward to the Ulumau year
Uluamau class IX includes: Adrian Boone, park ranger at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; James Canedy, director of learning at Four Seasons Hualalai; Nancy Carr-Smith, Realtor, principal broker at Aloha Kohala Realty; Robin Coonen, business manager at Hawaii Pacific Parks Association; Susan Naomi Cox, Green Power Girl Inc.; Clifford Noel Kauila Ho, executive director of the Neighborhood Place of Kona; Jaisy Jardine, director of public relations at The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii; Dr. Jamee Mahealani Miller, unit manager at The Queen Lili’uokalani Children’s Center; Julie Mitchell, executive director, Kui’kahi Mediation Center; E.L. “Sam” Murray, WHH Foundation; Shawn Saito, property manager Parker Ranch; Richard Sherlock, captain, Hawaii Police Department; Greg Sievert, executive director, Hawaii Outdoors Institute.
According to Jardine, at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park retreat, the Class IX decided to tackle the issue of food sustainability this year.
“As we wrapped up the retreat at the Volcano House, I took a moment to look at my fellow classmates … incredible individuals from all walks of life who were already leaders in their own right, but were also selected as they want to make this island a better place, to do more good, to contribute more,” Jardine said. “We arrived as strangers and left as friends. If this is any indication as to what the rest of the series brings, then I am in for one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
For more information on Ulumau – Hawaii Island Leadership Series, visit their website at ulumau.org.