Lessons Of Leadership Loom Large And Small

Kapunahala Elementary School had 11 students nominated to attend junior leadership training in Washington, D.C. Those heading to the nation's capital this spring for the experience are (front, from left) Tani Simms, Kylie Tangonan, Kealana Almeida, Liv Peralta, Caid Aquino, Christopher Feeney and Racin Horita. Also selected were (back, from left) Reyne Matsukawa, Kylie Bean, Dallas Martinez and Bailey Nakano. Photo by Yvonne Almeida.

Kapunahala Elementary School’s 2013 venture into keiki leadership training is off and running as a handful of fifth- and sixth-graders prepare to attend a special conference in the nation’s capital this month, in April or in the summer.

The Junior National Young Leaders Conference nominates “mature, high-achieving middle school students” for its sessions each year, and the chosen Kapunahala kids have been raising money for it for months – which also is a sign of leadership potential. The goal is about $2,000 for tuition alone.

“In student council, we’re learning how to lead committees,” explained fifth-grader Caid Aquino. “And the conference will show us how to lead people and be a good role model, like George Washington.”

As far as paying his way goes, future leader Aquino learned to appreciate his parents. “I didn’t have time to raise money,” he admitted, “but I was very eager to go, so my parents were willing to fund it as a learning experience for the rest of my life. I’m predicting that it probably cost a lot and I’m in debt to them.”

Sixth-grader Kealana Almeida hopes to learn tips on leading community service projects. She has her eye on trash pickups and beach cleanups. “That’s our main problem here,” she said, listing littered shorelines she’s observed from Sandy’s and Waikiki to Shark’s Cove. Fundraising for the trip also provided some learning tools.

“The chores for neighbors and the recycling – those were easy,” she said. “What was really hard was doing the imu in Kahana Valley – selling the tickets, carrying the turkeys. But we made $700! Then there was the car wash and bake sale. It was hard at first, but fun. But they just kept coming and coming. No break until the end.” (In fact, according to Almeida’s mom Yvonne, Kealana raised a “pretty good” amount: $1,600 in all.)

Almeida leaves today (March 13) for the March 17-24 session, to be held at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Washington, D.C. The children will examine six leadership traits and some of America’s historic leaders and social advocates. They will visit key sites, do hands-on exercises and workshops and work together on action plans to “affect change within their homes and communities.”

Not all of the original eight candidates were able to go, added Yvonne, “but they were really happy just to be nominated.”