MAKAWAO - The West Side was well-represented at the first TEDxYouth@SeaburyHall event held last weekend when James Preston Hill (JP) took the stage, "Imagining A Better Tomorrow," the 2014 conference theme.
One of 12 selected as presenters out of 20 applicants, the eighth-grader from Sacred Hearts School shared his mana'o on the values of ancient Polynesian wayfinding skills and the peaceful mission of the Hokule'a Worldwide Voyage.
"The stated vision of the Worldwide Voyage is Malama Honua, meaning to care for our island Earth. Malama Honua teaches us that we are all connected, and the Earth is our canoe. We must care for our canoe, and we must care for each other," JP advised.
James Preston Hill was among the speakers at the inaugural TEDxYouth@ SeaburyHall.
And JP is a sterling personification of the message he imparted last Sunday in Olinda at the Seabury Hall A'ali 'kuhonua Creative Arts Center.
"There is no way to overstate the critical importance of reaching back to a previous time," the 13-year-old environmental advocate stressed.
Since 2012, the weekend trooper has joined Maui Cultural Lands on Saturdays to "Malama Honokowai."
MCL President Ekolu Lindsey is grateful for his participation.
"JP volunteers his time freely with Maui Cultural Lands. His kokua to the culture, land and its people are heartfelt and inspiring He holds a light that is rare to see in young individuals. To sum up his contribution to MCL, I'd quote my father Ed Lindsey, 'People who help the land and the culture, who give unselfishly for the sake of the land, they are the heroes, the real warriors.' "
The nonprofit community leader, a formerTEDx speaker, was eloquent in his description of JP's multi-faceted duties in the valley high above Kaanapali.
"He does our Honokowai Valley orientation, introducing our new volunteers to the valley, its stories as it relates to place-based history and flora. Other fun activities include endemic and indigenous plant hydration, invasive species removal along a riparian corridor, fruit and vegetable harvest, irrigation maintenance, equipment management and entertaining generational liaison."
JP's practice of "Malama Honua" extends from the mountain to the ocean ahupua'a-style, Lindsey told the Lahaina News.
"JP has since expanded his knowledge to include marine resource management by volunteering the first Saturday of the month with Polanui Hiu (a community managed marine area based in Lahaina). His presence amongst adults who are passionate about conservation, preservation and relationship restoration between people and natural resources is inspiring. Inspiring because our hard work today will be carried on by our next generation - JP is one of those leaders."
His teacher and mentor at Sacred Hearts School, MaryAnna Enriquez, described the young wayfinder's dedication.
"There is a depth to him that is not at first perceptible. I don't know many (any) students who are so committed on different levels (spiritual, scientific, social) that they volunteer once a week to Maui Cultural Lands or any other organization," she commented.
Moms have a second sense about their children, and Sheri Stein is no different.
"I believe he is an old soul, which gives him the ability to carry on a conversion as well as a relationship with a four-year-old to a 94-year-old," she said.
She is rightfully proud of her teenage son, saying, "he already makes a difference; he has such passion for people and the environment."
A father-son bond is special, and Frank Hill has excellent parenting skills.
"As with any parent/child relationship, you teach by example. You instill a work ethic, and you teach right from wrong. It's pretty basic really. He has gone years without missing a day of school. And on those Saturdays when he just wants to sleep-in instead of going to work in the valley, you remind him of who he is, and the responsibility that he carries, so he has the motivation to put on those work boots," he said.
He considers his son an out-of-the-box thinker.
"We learned early on to never dismiss his ideas simply because he was a kid and couldn't possibly know something that we didn't. He just has this ability to look at the world through a slightly different prism than the rest of us," he observed.
In life, JP is wayfinding along a path less taken, "Imagining a Better Tomorrow," using the wind, stars and waves as his guide, "incorporating a mindset of kokua" and navigating "towards a sustainable future for ourselves and our island home."