How has journalism and critical thinking on public issues in high schools in Hawaii evolved since you and Eunica Escalante wrote the first âRaise Your Handâ youth column on March 7, 2016?
To say that I was amazed at the abilities of current high school students would be an understatement. What I have found is that students are much more aware of social issues and are ready to seize opportunities that raise the voices of young people.
When I was a student and working on my high school newspaper, I felt like everyone wanted to write for the articles section. The appeal of writing a story, an interview, or even a book or movie review was unmatched. The assignment offered creative freedom and, to some extent, comfort because the characteristics were an innate extension of student interests. In contrast, hardly anyone was willing to write an op-ed, an opinion piece forever associated with this student. Carrying out research, structuring a case and opening up to criticism were actions that very few, myself included, were willing to take.
The same cannot be said of high school students today. Look no further than the âRaise Your Handâ column (which takes place the first Sunday of the month in the Insight section of Star-Advertiser). Since 2016, I have seen young people commemorate their unbridled views on local, national and international issues. These students are breaking down stereotypes that young people are too disengaged, just âcomplainingâ about problems. With information from various platforms at their fingertips, students no longer ask if there is enough information to form an opinion. This problem has been largely resolved. Instead, they critically assess the information they receive and consider where their opinion fits in the larger conversation.
What can be done to get more high school students to get involved in public policies?
High school students first need to better understand what government and the nonprofit sector do.
As an entity that can formulate, administer and enforce policies, the government exercises great control over the functioning of communities. Often filling in gaps left by government, the nonprofit sector provides services that are lacking to communities and advocates for policy changes on behalf of the communities they serve. In between, students can be more engaged by participating in roles that they are aware of and that appeal to their interests.
How do you train high school and college students to become leaders in their community?
There is no secret formula, a proven method, for developing young leaders. Leaders can come from anyone and from anywhere. What I do know, however, is that high school and college students often benefit from an environment that fosters agency and accountability. It is not enough to give students a platform to be heard. In fact, some students feel alienated when they use such a platform to raise concerns but ultimately no change is implemented. It gives students the illusion that their opinion matters. Instead, an environment that incorporates student participation early in the decision-making process, or grants students some autonomy, encourages students to become engaged in issues that affect them and their community. Students grow tremendously when they are mentally stimulated and stimulated. This growth can be facilitated by having students work on developing solutions to problems in their community.
On a more practical note, setting clear expectations for their work helps ensure that their role is not a ceremony, but a real opportunity to embrace meaningful change. More often than not, I think people will find that young people will exceed these expectations.
How has the pandemic affected you and the students you work with?
I am extremely fortunate to have been (and still be) a student in the midst of the pandemic. Aside from spending time with my family, focusing on my studies gave me a semblance of stability that I wouldn’t have if I worked full time. However, I recognize that the situation is not the same for others.
The pandemic has been an opportune time for change. In particular, the proliferation of telework has undoubtedly changed workplaces and schools forever. While students may be divided on the preferred benefit of education, students are likely to rate flexibility and the ability to telecommute in their jobs for the foreseeable future. Additionally, many students were able to prioritize activities they had relegated to their periphery – opening a business, exploring new hobbies, and reconnecting with others. On the other hand, there were students whose entire lives were turned upside down, suffering heartbreaking losses. Like the millions of adults who have reassessed their work-life balance, students also live with an increased awareness and concern for their quality of life.
As you enter your third year of law school, how have your career goals changed?
When I entered law school, I already knew I wanted to practice law in Hawaii. This objective remains unchanged. As someone born, raised and educated in Hawaii, I consider it a great privilege to work in a place that has offered me so many opportunities and to give back to those in my community.
What has changed is my perception of what it means to be a lawyer, especially in Hawaii. Throughout my first two years in law school, I noticed an underlying theme of compassion that is ingrained in the culture of the school. True to Chief Justice William Richardson’s philosophy of “watching over those at the bottom of the ladder,” faculty and staff are ready to reach out, and students are always looking to help each other. As a result, when I imagine how I want to practice law in Hawaii in the future, I not only think of being a competent lawyer, but also compassionate.
THE ORGANIC FILE
>> Current positions: Student, William S. Richardson Law School, class of 2022; co-editor, University of Hawaii Law Review
>> Previous experience: Summer partner, Case Lombardi & Pettit; summer intern, Hawaiian Electric Co., legal department
>> Personal history: Born and raised in Honolulu, currently residing in Aiea; Fellows Class of 2015, Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders; Graduated from Damien Memorial School; BA in English with Honors from the University of Hawaii-Manoa. Enjoys cooking, playing volleyball and teaching my dog âânew tricks, often with varying degrees of success.
>> One more thing: Think big, think taller, then be taller than you think.