Thank you, women leaders of Kauai

  • Contributed photo

    Maryanne Kusaka

  • Contributed photo

    Mehana Vaughan

  • Contributed photo

    Virginia Beck

  • Contributed photo

    Lila Metzger

LIHUE — Four of Kauai’s notable women leaders will be honored today.

It’s the YWCA’s 10th annual Na Wahine Alakai o Kauai leadership event at the Kauai Marriott Resort in Lihue at 5:30 tonight.

Hear stories about how Virginia Beck, Maryanne Kusaka, Lila Metzger and Mehana Vaughan have used their talents to lead Kauai into a brighter future.

“We are very happy and honored to highlight women’s leadership and to thank them for their leadership. From that it inspires others, (especially) young women, into leadership,” said Renae Hamilton-Cambeilh, executive director of the YWCA, who hosts the yearly event.

Former Kauai Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, who started out as a teacher on Kauai, said she’s honored to be acknowledged for her many years of service to the island.

Kusaka ran for mayor after several colleagues and former students encouraged her to throw her hat into the race after Hurricane Iniki.

“For some reason they thought I would make a good leader, so I made a few inquiries and thought I could gain some support,” she said.

She served as mayor from 1994 to 2002.

“Kauai is a great place to live, but it’s critically important to volunteer and give back to the community; be a coach, volunteer at the hospital, volunteer at the museum,” Kusaka said.

For decades, Virginia Beck has worked to improve the quality of life for women and children. As a nurse practitioner, she worked to build birthing programs for the Westside community, which was underserved at the time.

Beck also helped start Kauai Women’s Center in the 1970s.

“We had to speak louder because no one was listening,” she said.

Beck said if you don’t care for the younger generations, it’s all over.

“You have to serve to deserve. Unless you’re contributing a payback on what the planet invested in you, you’re just taking up space. We have to give back. We have a responsibility for everything we take, everything we touch and everything we use,” she said.

University of Hawaii Professor Mehana Vaughan doesn’t think of her work as service to the community.

“I just do work that I love in the way that I’ve been taught by many mentors and family members and find it a joy to teach people about our island and then contribute through that work helping the places we love to thrive for our children,” she said.

Vaughn said if you want to touch the future, teach the children.

“I love to work with young people and teach them that the many gifts they have can contribute to their home areas and communities and I learn a lot from them,” she said.

Lila Metzger didn’t like high school, so she made sure to graduate early so she could travel. She eventually became a professional model.

Metzger studied Pilates in California with the intention of starting a Pilates studio on Kauai, but was ultimately introduced to break dancing.

“I dove head first into learning how to break, immersing myself into three aspects of true hip-hop culture, which was breaking, spoken word and poetry and DJ’ing. All of these things were a natural expression of what I really was passionate about,” she said.

Eventually, Metzger, along with two other friends, established Kauai Underground Artists (KUGA). Each year, the group hosts the Love Life Festival to promote a drug-free and suicide-free culture on Kauai.

“I want to see Kauai kids thrive and have a broader world view and I’m doing what I think will help our keiki,” she said.

For tickets to the event, visit www.ywcakauai.com, or call 245-5959. There will be dinner, a silent auction, music, entertainment and dancing.

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Bethany Freudenthal, crime, courts and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or bfreudenthal@thegardenisland.com.

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