Models of inspiration

LIHUE — The message from five women with successful careers to 17 girls from Kapaa and Waimea High School was clear: You can do anything you want. Just believe it and work toward it.

“We’re trying to inspire young women to dream bigger and have larger goals and to realize the absolutely amazing difference they can make in the world,” said Virginia Beck, one of the organizers of the career day hosted by the Mayor’s Committee on the Status of Women on Kauai onn Friday at the Courtyard Marriott. “There’s so much power in them but they’re at a time when they’re feeling so vulnerable.”

The career day panel featured Bank of Hawaii investment banker, Jennifer Sandrowski and Pamela Varma Brown, author of Kauai Stories, who spoke to the girls about their journeys of success and offered them advice on how they can achieve their dreams.

“The point was to inspire the students to know they can be and do anything they want to in their lives,” Brown wrote in an email. “One of my personal favorite moments was after our formal talks, one girl asked me if she could publish her own book even though she was younger than 20 years old. I was so happy to be able to tell her, ‘Yes, you can self-publish at any age.’ She had the hugest smile on her face.”

The panel also featured scientist astronaut, Millie Fulford-Hughes, who has been doing research on the behavior of bacteria in space, YMCA executive director Renae Hamilton and keynote speaker Dondi Ho Costa, who is an entertainer, dancer and singer on Kauai.

Students were selected by their principals.

“Mrs. (Mahina) Anguay, the principal said this event should be an eye-opener,” said Casey Fernandez, a Waimea High School student. “We’re very excited to see what happens.”

The attendees were also treated to lunch and received gift bags filled with a tote bag, a trivet, a notebook and some candy, including chocolate from Sweet Shop in Kilohana bearing tags reading “You are the Hero of Your own Story,” and “Princesses don’t need saving, they’re too busy saving the world.”

Although only Kapaa and Waimea high schools came to the meeting, the committee hopes female students from Kauai’s other high schools will join in the future.

“I hope they find their passions and pursue them,” Brown said. “My wish for all of them, really for all of us, is that whatever work we find for ourselves, that it doesn’t feel like work, that it feels like fun everyday.”

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