One of the most amazing professional experiences I've had in my career was my year as a part of the Pacific Century Fellows (PCF). That's a group of mid-career leaders who are specifically selected for their potential and promise, who are groomed to help lead the state to prosperity.
PCF 2014 class. Courtesy: Ryan Kawamoto.
"The objective of the Pacific Century Fellows Program is to develop leaders with a greater awareness and sensitivity to the people and institutions of Hawaii. Based on the White House Fellows Program, the Pacific Century Fellows Program will bring together annually up to 32 of Hawaii’s most promising individuals from all walks of life, fields and professions. They’ll gain a broader view of civic duty through direct contact with senior community, social and government leaders. The program encourages the development of long-term relationships between leaders young and old, united in their commitment to find creative solutions to the challenges facing the state," reads the PCF website.
Diane and Mufi
Founder Mufi Hannemann designed it as a nine month program that starts with a mandatory two day retreat. Thereafter, fellows meet monthly for an all-day seminar that focuses on one specific topic of our community.
Touring Institute for Human Services
As part of the most recent class (2014), for instance, I spent a day touring homeless encampments, getting a look at how the Institute for Human Services is set up, and hearing from developers about proposed solutions to the affordable housing crisis. It's meant to open your mind to the larger perspective, so that when you return to your job, you will consider how you can affect change.
Matthew Bauer and Kaiwi Yoon
Alumnus Matthew Bauer had a similar realization. "The Pacific Century Fellowship allows participants the opportunity to look at the many issues facing the state from different view points. My eyes were open on many topics I thought I had an understanding on including: GMO use, public education, the military and the criminal justice system. It was when PCF was touring Halawa Prison, our class' first seminar, that I realized to gain greater understanding you really need to dig deep and understand the issue on the ground level," he says.
Hawaii Island resident Ryan Kadota says it was worth the extra effort to be part of this. "Coming from a neighbor island, I was afforded the opportunity to bring a different outlook to our monthly outings and share that with my classmates, as well as gain their perspectives. There was a lot we all learned from one another. The most rewarding part of the Pacific Century Fellows, besides my own personal growth, are friendships I formed over the course of the program."
Ryan Kadota and me
The program's end is really just the beginning of our commitment to greater community responsibility. We are expected to take a more active public service role, applying the concepts learned over the course of the program.
There are many reasons I enjoyed this experience so much, but one of them is the deeper engagement with society that it afforded. Though I've spent most of my career in journalism, which puts me in touch with a wide slice of life, I've rarely been able to dedicate an entire day of study to an issue. Also, people are less willing to speak openly about their real feelings to a reporter.
Hike at Mt. Ka`ala
I do believe we're only as strong as our weakest link, and I appreciate that the program empowers me to now act upon the urge to help. It also provides me a built-in network of like-minded people, creating a synergistic effect.
As a bonus, the classes usually bond, and many, like ours, create opportunities on their own for trips and monthly lunches. I have 30 amazing new friends who I connect with in a way that I haven't replicated elsewhere.
Kadota and I were part of two extracurricular trips, of which he reflects, "A very enlightening part of the program were the trips we took to the other neighbor islands, Moloka`i and Kaho`olawe, where we were able to learn about the history of those islands and their communities, as well as the monumental challenges facing them now and moving forward."
Optional PCF trip to Molokai. On the hike down to Kalaupapa. Courtesy: Ryan Kawamoto.
PCF is a bit like a college fraternity, but on the intellectual, professional, philanthropic side. I was not at all expecting that, based on my experience as a member or board director of other organizations, but I fully cherish it.
The boat to/ from Kaho`olawe
Do you want to be the change you want to see for Hawaii? PCF is taking applications for the Class of 2015-16 from now through July 15. More information at http://www.pacificcenturyfellows.com/. Good luck!
Working on Kaho`olawe