Aikoa Soto named Employee of the Year

LIHU‘E — Aikoa Soto’s persistence and dedication stands out.

Soto, a cleaning technician at ServiceMaster in Lihu‘e, was chosen as the Hawai‘i State Council on Developmental Disabilities Employee of the Year for his attributes earlier this month, celebrated as National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Soto, 30, began training at ServiceMaster in June under owner Phil Kleidosty, and was soon hired as a part-time employee.

“The employment fit was apparent from the start,” stated the state Department of Human Services Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, which helped to facilitate the employment.

Soto said he proud of the work he’s done, and thankful for his meaingful employment.

Kleidosty, DVR said, had no previous experience hiring individuals with disabilities, but working with Soto “reinforces his belief in the importance of finding hidden talent among underserved individuals.”

The partnership was two-fold: Soto was looking for “clear, consistent instruction,” and Kleidosty needing a new hire trusted to follow protocol with long-term contract Corteva Agriscience.

“Both found what they were looking for and created a mutually-beneficial working relationship,” DVR said.

An “exemplary employee,” Soto has developed a rapport with his coworkers and has grown in the position personally, professionally and socially, the DVR said.

ServiceMaster and Kleidosty were honored as Employer of the Year.

“ServiceMaster was selected due to Phil’s open attitude to customized employment within his company,” DVR said. “He was able to envision satisfying his business needs while also providing an opportunity for Aikoa to demonstrate his strengths and abilities.”

Mayor Derek Kawakami honored Soto and Kleidosty last week with a proclamation, calling on employers, schools and organizations to observe National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

“All it really takes is just one person who believes in somebody else and you can change the trajectory in that person’s life,” Kawakami said at a forum focused on topics pertaining to the disabled community.

“It has a ripple effect, and I hate to use this word, but it’s contagious. It’s a good type of contagious because it’s the type of love and aloha that we want to see spread across this island,” Kawakami said.

This article was updated at 9:38 a.m. to correct that the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation falls under the Department of Human Services Division, not the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.


Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or


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