Moloka‘i teens look to the future

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For many students, college and career fairs are common enough to be taken for granted.

But on Molokaʻi, where high school enrollment hovers around 350, the remote Hoʻolehua campus is often passed over by college, job and military recruiters looking for a larger pool of candidates.

Once a year, however, Molokaʻi High School becomes a premier destination for college admissions officers, trade school representatives, employers, military recruiters and alumni who want all of Molokaʻi’s middle and high schoolers to know about options open to them after graduation.

Student Activities Coordinator Lisa Takata and business and marketing teacher Kai Ward organize the annual Future Fest event, with students from business and leadership classes taking an active role in the event planning. ʻAhahui grants from OHA have helped defray event costs for the past four years, which include travel expenses for some of the presenters.

“Before we could only take three to four students to Honolulu,” for college and career fairs, which just wasn’t serving enough students, Takata said. “There’s so many things our students can do.”

At Future Fest, participants can learn about an array of post-secondary options on and beyond Molokaʻi: colleges and trade schools, vocational programs, military service and careers.

“I think that Future Fest is a good way to start thinking about college,” said 11th grader Violet Ritte, who plans to go into criminal law. But Ritte also wants to learn about about culinary arts programs at Future Fest, pointing out that a good job in the food industry could help pay for law school.

While senior Keanu Stone was growing up, helping care for her bedridden tutu got her interested in becoming a physical therapist. At Future Fest, however, she discovered another passion, marine biology, and has already been able to do some volunteer work in the field.

This year’s Future Fest is the first for sophomore Marie Joy DeVera-Kuahuia, although she’s heading in with a career path already in mind. “After I graduate, I plan on going into the Air Force,” she said. “I’ve just always had an interest in flying since I was little.”

Senior Rayden Dekneef, Molokaʻi born and raised, plans to stay there to pursue a career as an MMA fighter. He’s also planning to follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming a personal trainer. Poverty, drugs and abuse can make life hard for youth on Molokaʻi, said Dekneef, who wants to be a positive influence for other young people.

Seniors Tashady Florendo and Ikua Deponte both want to go into the health field. “Going to Future Fest, I saw all my options, all the careers out there,” Florendo said. Talking to professionals about medical assistant work inspired her to pursue a similar career. Heading into her final Future Fest, she said she hopes to learn more from people who have worked as paramedics, nurses and certified nursing assistants, as well as explore college options in Colorado and Utah.

Deponte already knows what he wants to do. “I want to be just like my mom, a nurse.” Before Future Fest, Deponte said he didn’t realize how many opportunities were out there – now he wants to use the event to find out what colleges might be the right fit. And that’s what the all-day event is all about – giving students a taste of the post-secondary options waiting for them after high school while connecting them with people who can advise them on how to reach their goals.