Global Issues Network comes to Maui Prep
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, global citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
On March 7, 2020, Maui Preparatory Academy hosted the first-ever Global Issues Network (GIN) Conference on Maui.
GIN, an international organization focused on empowering today’s youth to collaborate locally, regionally and globally, creates project-based sustainable solutions for global problems.
Since its grassroots beginning in 2006 at the International School of Luxembourg, GIN has grown rapidly to become a global network of empowered student change-makers, spanning the globe across Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, North America, and South and Central America. The conference now includes an active body of alumni in universities and beyond.
GIN students grow to become lifelong learners who understand the imperative of staying involved and taking action.
The theme of the Maui conference, “Vision 2020: EnGINeering the Future, Respecting Our Roots,” focused on engineering in relation to both technology and ideas as a way into the future of a more sustainable lifestyle. Students also concentrated on cultural and environmental aspects via their “respecting our roots” pledge.
Robert Landau, Maui Prep head of school and former executive director of the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools (HAIS), said, “Through the GIN Conference, students had a great opportunity to learn about Maui issues and global affairs, and to network with other participants. We raised public awareness, promoted community engagement and inspired students.”
In 2006, Landau worked at the International School in Prague and brought a group of students to the first GIN Conference. He was sold on the idea. Following that, he included GIN throughout his career at other international schools.
When Landau moved to Hawaii in 2015, as the executive director of HAIS, he wanted to do something that was student-focused. So, in 2016, he brought the first GIN conference to ‘Iolani School on Oahu. It was a huge success!
“We, Maui Prep, decided to be the first Maui school to host a GIN Conference,” Landau said. “After learning about GIN, our students wanted to bring it to Maui. They traveled around the island doing presentations at other schools and found sponsors and caterers for the event. The Maui schools that participated in the forum were Carden Academy, Hawaii Technology Academy, Lahainaluna High School and Haleakala Waldorf School. Through GIN, we hope to provide all students with an opportunity to learn and engage in creative and purposeful problem-solving and hands-on community engagement projects.”
Joshua Cooper, lecturer at University of Hawaii (UH) and executive director of the Hawaii Institute for Human Rights, gave a keynote on the importance of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which he helped negotiate.
“This is the 75th anniversary of the UN, and all students should focus on and get involved with the core themes of nonviolence, ecology, human rights and social justice,” he said. “There is something for every person here today to do for the good of the community and the world. Students should know the pressing problems in Hawaii, look at where we are failing and discover what actions can be taken.”
Peyton Gillespie, Maui Prep junior and Social Chairman of the GIN Conference, agreed.
“The goal of our conference was to educate students on how they can collaborate to create project-based sustainable solutions for a variety of local and global problems,” he said.
“Inspired by the 17 SDGs, our conference centered around how we as students can move forward together on achieving these goals. This is important to me, because it brings youth together for the purpose of education and the development of solutions, which are both especially important during this time of climate crisis, poverty and homelessness, among other global concerns.”
Gillespie noted, “Mr. Cooper brought the most valuable skills to the table through his experiences working side by side with the UN around the globe, and as a UH lecturer. It was an honor to have him fly in from his work in Samoa to attend and give a keynote at our GIN Conference. He brought an array of opportunities to the participating students: a Human Rights and Activism art competition, opportunities to participate in the Aloha Plus Challenge and Hawaii’s Voluntary Local Review of the SDGs, as well as the launch of a College Competition in partnership with the UN Association in regard to the Voluntary Local Review. He also inspired me to pursue my political leadership goals and confidently bring students together to reduce global problems.”
Lahainaluna High School Hawaiian Language and Social Studies teacher, Kumu Kailani Ross, reflected, “The GIN Conference was an expansive event for our students. It taught them ways to care for the Earth and what they can do to get involved to help solve community and world concerns.
“Cooper, the keynote speaker, explained how they can improve on their daily habits and lifestyles that contribute to climate change, and how to reverse it to make life better for our future generations. Today’s takeaway message is that if we take care of the land responsibly, we will be abundantly cared for.”
Koichiro Kita, CEO and managing director of LbE Hawaii, a global education company, said, “In Japan, people are focusing on the UN SDGs. Today, everyone needs to be very conscious about caring, even the youth. The GIN conference helped students become aware of local issues to bring about a better community to live in for themselves, their families and the world. I was impressed to see students so enthusiastic about leading this conference, and being confident about what they are doing and the goals they want to accomplish. They bring great hope for the future. Japan is learning much from the United States about project-based service learning, and we hope to help make Hawaii and Japan leading communities in sustainable development.”
The conference program offered four rotation sessions with community leaders, including a student TED talk on Gender Equality.
In the first session, Gregg Kresge, Hawaiian Electric’s Maui Electrification of Transportation (EoT) manager, explained, “Our EoT Strategic Roadmap describes the near- and long-term actions to reduce dependence on imported fossil fuel for transportation as well as electricity. This alignment provides obvious benefits to the efforts to reach Hawaii’s 100 percent renewable energy goal by 2045, and to slow climate change. The good news is that if this alignment is deliberate and not haphazard, it will also strengthen the state’s economy. We are hoping your generation will build on this momentum and accelerate this journey.”
The second session featured Lalaine Pasion, project manager for Maui Economic Development Board’s STEMworks (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) program.
She described the role of STEMworks in the schools and its importance for the students’ careers. In addition, during the session, the students created an ArcGIS StoryMap (narratives combining text, maps and other multimedia content) to tell stories that matter to society at-large and that present possible solutions.
For example, Lily Bourland, Maui Prep junior, explained, “For my ArcGIS project, I chose the SDG Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation. My story was about the coral bleaching problem from sunscreen. Unfortunately, research has found that some of the main chemicals used in sunscreens are harmful to corals and other marine life. One of the main culprits in Oxybenzone, a chemical ingredient found in over 3,500 sun care products. A solution in Hawaii is that in 2021, a new law will ban certain sunscreen ingredients to protect the health and resiliency of Hawaii’s coral reefs.”
In the third session, Timothy Botkin, University of Hawaii Maui College Sustainable Science Management Program coordinator, advocated for understanding the broad range of sustainability issues in the world.
He shared the importance of diving deeply into sustainability science, using applied thinking skills to address real problems, and participating in internships to strengthen relationships with the Maui working community.
“Student involvement is the springboard for launching better and brighter sustainability ideas in the community and beyond,” Botkin said. “Students need to focus on sustainability initiatives. Projects could include Earth Day activities, local beach and road clean-ups, nature hikes, policy advocation, and more.”
In the final session, Keeana Villamar, Maui Prep junior, gave a TED talk on SDG Goal 5: Gender Equality.
“It is vital to discuss the steps we need to take to empower girls and to remind both genders of their worth,” she said. “It is important to spread awareness of this issue to become a more productive country.”
GIN concluded with a Learning Fair event where students presented their community outreach projects. Kilakila Parnell and his teammate, Valentin Hasse, showcased their photojournalism project about the homeless problem on Maui.
“We documented this problem firsthand in hope that, with compassion, people can learn more about homelessness and help alleviate it,” Parnell said. “As for now, volunteering and donations to nonprofit organizations that support homeless communities are the best ways to make an impact.”
Reflecting on his takeaway from chairing the GIN conference, Gillespie said, “My goal is to bring my experience from planning and running Maui’s first GIN conference to support other students. Hopefully, GIN inspired the attendees to plan their own conference, start their own project and follow the 17 SDGs to help solve local and global problems.”