Event Welcomed More than 100 Attendees and Honored Distinguished Leaders in Conservation

HONOLULU Kupu kicked off its 2018 Hawai‘i Youth Conservation Corps Summer program with an awards ceremony luncheon and education and a career expo during its ninth annual Kupu Environmental Fair at Aloha Tower Marketplace. Bringing together more than 100 youth program participants, partners and supporters, the event culminated a three-day training camp for Kupu’s Summer program participants. The luncheon included an awards ceremony honoring past Kupu Summer program participants and partners – 2018 Kupu Alumnus of the Year Syd “Syd Boy” Kawahakui Jr. and 2018 Kupu Environmental Champion Daniel Keone Sailer.

“Kupu strives to empower youth to become environmental stewards and community leaders.  Our honorees not only serve as role models for our program participants, but their legacy also inspires and influences the next generation of environmental leaders,” said Kupu CEO John Leong. “Syd Boy and Daniel have made a huge impact on our environment. Both not only have had meaningful careers in conservation, but they have been inspirations to us all.

Syd Kawahakui has been a member of Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana for the past 18 years, serving as a kua (guide) coordinating volunteer trips to help build an alaloa, near shore trail system circling the island. He joined Kupu in 2004 as a Summer program team leader, and went on to work for the Division of Forestry and Wildlife as a site manager for their Makiki baseyard for 10 years. Kawahakui is currently training to become a firefighter, but he remains involved with conservation and volunteer efforts, inspiring, mentoring and supporting the next generation of leaders in Hawai‘i’s green jobs workforce.

“I made it a point that no matter what I did here with the state, that I would always do my best to get [youth] involved in our programs, and by doing that, I can leave a lasting impression,” said Kawahakui. “I was supposed to be helping this change, this huli, this introduction of all these things that I practice – aloha ‘āina [love the land], mālama ‘āina [take care the land], ho‘oulu ‘āina [grow the land] – I’m supposed to continue this practice and pass that on to the next generations of people that come.”

Honored posthumously, Daniel Sailer created a legacy preserving and restoring O‘ahu’s mountains and forests. While with The Nature Conservancy’s Honouliuli Preserve, Sailer was instrumental in protecting the area’s native and endangered species, and educating and mentoring Leeward school students through the organization’s Project Stewardship program. He ended his career with the O‘ahu Army Natural Resources Management program, where he expanded conservation and restoration efforts in the Wai‘anae and Ko‘olau Mountain ranges. His wife Ericka Ehrhorn received the award on his behalf.

Also during the event, U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Randy Moore presented Kupu with the prestigious Forest Service Regional Forester’s Honor Award for Engaging Youth award for its partnership with Generation Green (USFS youth program) in the Blue Waters Exchange program. The pilot program has connected Kupu conservation program alumni from Hawai‘i and Generation Green alumni from Lake Tahoe, California, engaging them in cultural and environmental exchange opportunities. Last year, the group met in Lake Tahoe, and recently visited O‘ahu and Hawai‘i Island, where they met with local environmental leaders, visited and worked at cultural and historic sites.

“The Forest Service values our partnership with Kupu and celebrates the organization’s passion for fostering the next generation of environmental stewards,” said U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Randy Moore.

Kupu’s Environmental Fair also included an expo featuring up to 20 interactive educational booth displays and presentations to inspire Kupu’s Summer program participants about the different environmental education, career and partnership opportunities and services throughout the state.

Summer program participants headed back to their respective islands after the event, and began working at local conservation sites in their communities this week. Over the remaining six weeks, participants will hike and sometimes camp at remote locations like rainforests, coastal areas, loko i‘a (fishponds) or lo‘i (taro fields), where they will remove invasive species, restore native ecosystems and improve trails. In addition to learning cultural protocol about various cultural and environmental sites, as well as native, endangered and invasive species, participants will receive monetary education and service awards upon completion of the program.

“The past four days at training camp in Palehua provided a foundation for all of us, and it is through the Camp that we gained ‘ike or knowledge that will help us dive into the mauna (mountains) with confidence and efficiency,” said team member Charleston Mahi‘ai, Jr. “I look forward to being surrounded by like-minded people who are passionate and driven to take care of the land of Hawai‘i. From the work that we do today, we are able to take care of the ‘aina for future generations.”

“The Hawai‘i Youth Conservation Corps Summer Program is our longest-running program and something I look forward to every year. It’s so exciting meeting amazing participants from across the state, seeing them bond with one another, and work together during training camp and even beyond the program. They get an opportunity to learn about Hawaiian culture, the environment, but most importantly, they learn a lot about themselves – to accept kuleana for themselves and the world around them, teamwork, leadership and the importance of service,” added Leong.

The 2018 Kupu Environmental Fair was sponsored by American Savings Bank and Alexander & Baldwin, supported by donations from Ilio Products, Shaka Tea, La Tour Café, Rainbow Sales & Marketing and Menehune Water.

For more photos from the event, visit Kupu’s Facebook page.

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