Graduation of Adult Class 2017, youth at RYLA Camp in Koke‘e. - Photo: Courtesy

Dan Ahuna, Vice Chair, Trustee, Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau“Who is leading who?” I asked the 10th graders at Waimea High School on Kauaʻi’s west side. “Are you leading yourself or allowing the reactions of others to guide you?” Some answered quickly, “I am leading myself.” Others smiled at me with curiosity, and others had that glazed look – what you talking about?

Equally interesting are the similar responses from adults on these questions. Throughout the island, we see a people steeped in cultural traditions being overwhelmed by the powerful influences of the fast-paced world, and wondering how to keep our feet firmly planted on the land with our ancestral roots free to remain deep. In bridging tradition and technology, can we make the best of what we have today as we plan for our future?

Leadership Kauaʻi became a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization in 2003 to address these very issues. Today, as a resource for leadership training and development on island, our annual program is a cross section of qualified and diverse leaders who learn the value of team collaboration over a 10-month period. Participants’ vigorous coursework includes self-development assessment and reflection, developing skills and strategies to effectively and sensitively change internal culture to increase productivity, morality and wellness; leadership training for management teams; creating upward mobility and forward progress within the organization; and aligning individuals with personal, organizational and cultural values. Participants meet current leaders and visit historical cultural sites for a deeper sense of place. Today, our graduates are 210 adults strong with 279 youth including Rotary Leadership Youth. With integrity, inclusiveness, and passion, they have completed 42 community projects touching and improving the lives of over 35 percent of residents and visitors.

In addition, our youth program Piʻina Hōkū (Stars that Rise), has graduated 114 young leaders since its first class in 2007. In 2012, Leadership Kauaʻi launched a multi-year project to expand the youth programs to all the high schools island-wide, ultimately reaching thousands of youth. Our intention is to provide each student and teacher with leadership tools to guide our youth to lead their own lives first. From here, purpose and meaning are discovered allowing self-esteem to grow and confidence to exude to make tough decisions when it matters the most.

Our latest endeavors include the Nāmāhoe Leadership Voyaging program on Kauaʻi’s Polynesian voyaging canoe and the integration of leadership classes at Waimea High School.

Enrollment for the Annual Adult Program is open until September 8. Registration for the Nāmāhoe Leadership Voyaging Program will be available in September. For more information visit or call 808-246-8727. Join us today for Kauaʻi’s future.

Editor’s note: By invitation, this column was written by Char Ravelo, the Executive Director of Leadership Kauaʻi.

Note: Trustee columns represent the views of individual trustees and may not reflect the official positions adopted by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees.