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Lahainaluna students empowered at Patsy T. Mink Girls’ Summit

By BY CINDY SCHUMACHER - | Feb 14, 2019

Lahainaluna High School participated in the Patsy T. Mink Girls’ Summit on Jan. 31. Pictured (from left) are Tracy Poouahi, Anjanette Aveno, Veronica Lara and Siranny Lopez. PHOTO BY CINDY SCHUMACHER.

KAHULUI – On Jan. 31, students from Lahainaluna High School’s Lunas Robotics 3882 team, in partnership with Lahainaluna’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, attended the Patsy T. Mink Girls’ Summit at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.

Funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Patsy T. Mink Center for Business & Leadership at YWCA Oahu develops leaders and promotes the economic advancement of entrepreneurs and women through innovative workshops and specialized programs.

Mink, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Hawaii, advocated for numerous issues, programs and projects, including empowerment of women.

Sponsored by Maui Economic Development Board’s (MEDB) STEMworks and the Mink Center, the one-day summit was an educational and inspirational gathering for high school girls of all backgrounds to network with successful female leaders in the community.

The program was based on building interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) career paths. Through multiple workshops, including Financial Literacy, Engineering Design Challenge, Mentoring, and Advocacy, the young women explored different career fields, defined their personal ambitions and learned what it will take to achieve them.

“The event kicked off with a keynote address from Deanna Garcia, corporate operations manager and Maui site lead for Akimeka LLC, an IT company on Maui,” said Tracy Poouahi, Career & Technical Education Coordinator at Lahainaluna.

“Garcia started her career as an MEDB intern at Akimeka, which was eye-opening for the students. I am glad that the girls were able to hear from a successful business leader, who stated that her career began with an MEDB internship at her company. Lahainaluna is expanding our current internship program, so the more that the students hear that internships can lead to success, the better.”

Poouahi continued, “Students were able to sit with mentors to learn about job interviewing, networking with peers, professional development and how to seek mentorship with professional women.”

Vanessa Moreno from American Savings Bank, Lahaina Branch, and Brenda Shaffer taught the girls banking methods to help them successfully plan for their financial future. Moreno and Shaffer showed the girls how to set smart financial goals, analyze their spending, create a budget, learn strategies to follow their plan and how to monitor their plan.

“Brenda and I are grateful to MEDB STEMworks for the opportunity to share our knowledge about finance at the 2019 Girls’ Summit,” said Moreno.

“Our goal for the workshop was to give these girls a foundation in budgeting, banking and credit, empowering them to make smarter financial decisions. We encourage families to have these types of discussions early to set the children up for success in adulthood.”

Lahainaluna 11th grade student Siranny Lopez said, “The finance workshop taught me to recognize and consider topics such as what we need versus what we want, how to do balance sheets, do online banking, secure good credit and more. This will all surely be beneficial to me in the future when I’m planning my own finances.”

Lopez described her overall experience at the Summit.

“This was my first time at an event like this. I was nervous, but everyone’s kindness helped me relax and realize it was going to be a beneficial and fun day. We were introduced to our workshop topics – topics I barely knew about, such as how to prevent glue from melting during the Engineering Challenge. We were introduced to our women mentors and were able to have the chance to interact with them and learn how they got to their current positions.”

Summarizing what she learned at the event, Lopez said, “What I took away from all these women was that, even if I fail a thousand times, I just have to try again.

“Their advice motivated me to try even harder at school. We were introduced to the advocacy topic and had the chance to express ourselves in any topic, whether it was about gun violence, equality and empowerment for women, drugs or other amazing issues that were mentioned. We were handed a microphone, one at a time, to talk about our topic. I came away from this day feeling that women can do anything. This amazing experience taught me that women are strong!”

Anjanette Aveno, another Lahainaluna junior, attended the Girls’ Summit for the second time.

“It was still as amazing as ever,” she said. “I was able to connect with other girls interested in the STEM field while learning how to do real-world procedures.”

The STEM workshop was a Torch Design Challenge. Using the Engineering Design Process, the girls’ mission was to design a device that served as a protector for the Ares Vehicles.

Using aluminum foil and copper screening, they were challenged to design their device to withstand the heat of a blowtorch.

This workshop challenged the students to be clever and creative while using their critical thinking and communication skills. They worked in pairs to create their device and then were able to test it. The goal was to engineer a design that lasted the longest in the heat.

“We also had finance lessons, job interview tips, mentoring sessions and advocacy training,” said Aveno.

“I feel that, through the Girls’ Summit, many of the girls’ voices were heard. They were concerned about everyday issues. All the lessons and discussions at the event will be super helpful in whatever career paths we choose.”

Veronica Lara, Lahainaluna junior, added, “I had an amazing day filled with advice and support from successful women who want to see all of us young girls be as successful as they are, one day.

“From a wide array of activities, such as the STEM challenge, finance lessons, mentoring sessions and advocacy training, I was taught the importance of teamwork, support, speaking up and creating my own powerful statement. It felt great knowing there are women out there who care for our success and wish for us to rise up as leaders for the next generation.”

Poouahi concluded, “Lahainaluna is thankful to MEDB STEMworks and the Patsy T. Mink Center for providing this opportunity. Our students left the summit empowered to lead. This event was truly inspiring, and we hope to take more students in the future.”

The Career and Technical Education program at Lahainaluna consists of six pathways: Arts & Communication, Business, Health Services, Industrial Engineering & Technology, Natural Resources, and Public & Human Services. All programs are currently seeking internship opportunities for the students.

To assist with providing internships, contact CTE Coordinator Tracy Poouahi by e-mail at tracy_poouahi@notes.k12.hi.us.