WAIMEA — Nonprofits, including Kaua‘i Community Science Center in Waimea, joined the county’s “Rise to Work” program in April, which was relaunched by the county’s Office of Economic Development.
“The Rise to Work program has been a game-changer for KCSC,” President and CEO Sarah Styan said. “I have been able to increase our capacity, diversify our programming, improve our website, and move forward in many ways that would not have been possible without the program. We are so grateful for the excellent employees, Alaina Mandel and Sharae Halog, that we have had through the Rise to Work program and we are going to do everything we can to keep them on after the program as well.”
Mandel joined KCSC as the Director of Development in April and has helped with searching for grants and other opportunities for KCSC, while Halog joined KCSC as the Director of Operations.
“Thanks to Alaina’s initiative KCSC applied for and was selected as an official host of an event run by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the Webb Space Telescope Community Events initiative,” Styan said.
Styan said since Halog joined the KCSC team, she has come up with many new KCSC Brown Bag Activities and helped KCSC to grow its Citizen Science activities.
“We are now offering the Hawai‘i Crownflower Propagation Project and a Project Monarch Health, run by The University of Georgia,” Halog said. “Both of these projects are related to monarch butterflies and we would not have had the capacity to do this without Sharae’s great work.”
In addition, KCSC also applied and was selected for the County of Kaua‘i Innovation Grant for $50,000 in March of this year, which is separate from the Rise to Work program. According to Styan, the funds will be used to support the KCSC Industry Partnership Program.
OED Director Nalani Brun said some nonprofits received the innovation grant and also had Rise to Work employees.
“The Innovation Grant did not include funding for salaries for those organizations,” Brun said. “The Rise to Work program allowed them to hire additional employees. All Rise to Work funds goes directly to the employees (not employers) in the form of weekly paychecks and health insurance.”
The KCSC IP program addresses the “STEM Talent Crisis” by partnering with students, industry partners on Kaua‘i, and informal science experts on the mainland to co-develop fun hands-on learning experiences and activities to support STEAM learning and model and promote 21st-century learning skills.
“We are thrilled that KIUC is our Kaua‘i industry partner and our informal science experts are from Sciencenter in Ithaca, NY, and STE(A)M Truck powered by Community Guild in Atlanta, Georgia,” Styan said.
According to Styan, collaborating with professionals from KIUC will connect students with a realistic look into career pathways from the professionals who know them best.
“KIUC and our renewable partner AES are really excited about this collaboration,” KIUC’s Communications Manager Beth Tokioka said. “The science behind the West Kauai Energy Project is groundbreaking. It creates the perfect opportunity for innovation with these bright, enthusiastic students.”
The Sciencenter and STE(A)M Truck professionals will share their expertise to facilitate design, development, execution and ensure that the content developed is of the highest standards, fun, and ready to be shared with our community in impactful ways, according to Styan.
Styan said the co-developed content will also serve as a mechanism for the community to explore the renewable energy industry sector through free KCSC HOTspot events and/or in other multitudes of ways that suit KIUC.
“The co-development process will also introduce students directly to a detailed view of KIUC, being part of a collaborative and creative team, an impactful project-based learning experience, and an experience to include on job and college applications,” Styan said.
Brun said part of the county’s American Rescue Plan Act budget includes an extension of the Rise to Work program, which will go toward the nonprofits that are already participating in the program.
“This is part of the ARPA earmarked to the County of Kaua‘i,” Brun said. “The administration requested Council approval to apply for, receive, and expend the first allocation of these funds, in the total amount of $7,021,034 which Council approved on Wednesday.”
The Hawai‘i Community Foundation also contributed $4.2 million, donated by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, to the program earlier this year.
In an OED employer survey, many of the participating for-profit businesses are now in a position to maintain their employees on their own budget – which speaks to the success of the Rise to Work program as this demonstrates the longer-term impact the program has made.
“And given the number of local businesses that are actively looking for employees, we feel that participants who cannot be retained by their Rise to Work employer will have sufficient job opportunities outside of the program now,” Brun said. “However, most non-profit employers are not in a position to offer their employees permanent positions. Given the impact that these non-profit organizations make on the community, we felt that extending their time in the program would be beneficial.”
Another nonprofit, Malama Hule‘ia, benefits from the Rise to Work program while leading the community effort to eradicate plant mangroves and other invasive plants from riparian areas along rivers of Kaua‘i.
Sara Bowen, MH’s executive director said since joining Rise to Work in March 2021, the nonprofit was able to hire three full-time employees.
“Malama Hule‘ia depends largely on volunteerʻs working alongside us to get the invasive species cleared out and native wetland plants planted,” Bowen said. “With the pandemic, volunteer efforts had to pause. We are so grateful for the Rise to Work program enabling us to continue on making progress in our restoration goals.”
Stephanie Shinno, reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.