KOLOA — Kylie Butts thought Tuesday’s Leadership, Exploration and Inspiration program was just going to be a field trip she could enjoy instead of being in a classroom.
What the Kauai High School senior didn’t expect was to learn so much about the local hotel and tourism industry.
“It was a lot more than I thought it was going to be,” Butts said. “There’s so many different departments you can work in — there’s a lot of room to grow.”
The sixth annual LEI program, hosted by ClimbHI and Hawaii Tourism Authority at the Sheraton Kauai Resort, gave about 160 high school students from five schools the opportunity to explore what Kauai’s tourism and hotel industry has to offer.
“We put on the largest workforce development program across the state,” said Julie Morikawa, president of ClimbHI. “These vendors are from all different aspects of the hotel and tourism industry and they’re here to do one-on-ones with students to really share and help guide these students to a path for success and to reach their dreams.”
Student-mentors from Kauai Community College guided high schoolers around for the day, all while gaining experience of their own. Leila Summers, a mentor and KCC student studying hospitality and tourism, sees the LEI program as an opportunity to give back to students looking to follow the same path she did.
“Being a mentor for high schools is just to enlighten and show them the different aspects to the hospitality industry and the different careers they can pursue,” Summers said. “I think this is a really fantastic experience for these high school students because it shows them that they have a lot of different ways that they can pursue, even with the slightest of interest.”
Summers, who volunteered as a mentor at the program last year, said they received great feedback and have double the attendees this time around. Brianni Higashi, another mentor from KCC, said the program is a great way to gain experience.
“It gets everyone interactive and helps them understand the industry and it helps us as mentors to help out and get more engaged,” Higashi said.
Lola Temme, a junior at Island School, didn’t realize how large and important the tourism industry on Kauai was until she participated in the LEI program.
In 2016, the hospitality industry employed around 118,200 people in the state and 9,600 people on Kauai. Jobs that were introduced to the students were security detail, concierge services, hotel management and retail positions.
Temme’s classmate, Lexi Warnock, said the guest speakers put her mind at ease concerning her immediate future.
“We had speakers today expressing how they wanted to major in one thing and how they totally changed their mind and that you don’t always have to have a set path,” Warnock said. “You’re going to find your way and plans can change. And it’s good to be open to that.”
LEI 2017 will continue on Maui on April 8, Oahu on April 18 and Hawaii Island on April 19-20.