Much More Than a Campsite


Kokokahi is YWCA Oahu's beautiful 11-acre property in Kaneohe. You may know that Kokokahi offers swimming lessons, spring and summer day camps to children ages 6-12, and a monthly family night featuring a pool-side movie. But, did you know that Kokokahi is home to an amazing adaptive aquatics program?

While there are many who have fond memories of learning how to swim at the Kokokahi pool, a special group has also learned to love the water here - the students of the adaptive swim classes. For over 20 years, Kokokahi YWCA has been offering adaptive swim classes to the Windward community. The YWCA currently operates an adaptive aquatics class and the State's Department of Education (DOE) Adaptive Swim program, providing swim instruction to students with disabilities and severe impairments of all ages.

The woman behind the program is Erin Hisatake or better known to her students as simply “Miss Erin”. Erin developed the current adaptive aquatics classes when she started working with the DOE as they came to Kokokahi each year for a month. Students from Heeia Elementary, King Intermediate, and Castle High School joined her classes and for the 13 years Erin has been with YWCA O‘ahu, she has been developing her classes to focus on what students of all ages and abilities can do rather than focusing on their disabilities and challenges. “Every student comes with different kinds of challenges and the students are usually treated differently because of them.” However, Erin explains that what her students want and experience in her adaptive swim classes is the feeling of being no different than all the other students. 

The experience of being treated just like any other student has allowed her students to concentrate on swimming better and faster instead of on their inhibitions and anxieties. “Once they enter the water, their demeanor changes.  Being in the water is a treat,” Erin says. Parents even notice. They have mentioned to Erin that sometimes when their children do not swim for a while their behavior changes, but when they resume swimming their behavioral issues are minimized. Most would credit Erin’s passion, ability, and dedication, but she credits much of the success of her students to the splendor of the place and the community, “There is something about Kokokahi,” Erin explains, “when students come, they and their parents are elated because they fit in immediately.”

Erin says she loves to see the progress of her students as the sessions go by. She can see increased swimming and water skills, and, more importantly, increased confidence. The motivation behind the students is driven by their want to succeed and win. The students in Erin’s class make up a team she coaches called the “Windward Warriors” whom train to compete in the Special Olympics. During this year’s Special Olympics Summer Games swim competition, every one of her students who participated received a medal. In total, the Windward Warriors took home a total of gold medal, 4 silver medals, and 1 bronze medal. The Summer Games are a highlight of their hard work and she’s so proud of them for doing so well this year.

Even if the classes and students change, you can still hear Erin say, “Keep going, keep swimming, never give up!” Erin admits, “they actually say this to each other and so I’ve adopted it.  In teaching my students, the real blessing is they actually teach me never to give up.”

To learn more about the adaptive aquatics classes and to enroll in classes, please visit the Adaptive Swim section on the aquatics website:  To sponsor adaptive swim scholarships, please visit:



Empowerment. The word is in our mission statement, almost every program description, and spoken at all our events. Our mission it to empower women and girls to achieve their full potential and pursue their most successful life. Over the past few months, we witnessed women in our Economic Advancement Program speak about their experiences at an unexpected venue, the State Capitol. YWCA O‘ahu led the efforts to pass House Bill 845, a bill requiring an ID be given at the end of incarceration. House Bill 845 was successful not only because it was enacted into law, but because women in our programs learned a very impactful way to advocate for themselves and for those with similar stories by attending hearings and testifying. Through the legislative process, a new sense of empowerment developed from women sharing their experiences and women learned to use their experiences to benefit the greater community.

It is no small feat to testify in front of a room full of people. During the legislative session, legislators assigned to specific subject matter or “committees” review related bills. When one testifies in front of a committee one speaks in front of a panel of legislators, and a room full of State Department directors, advocates, lobbyists, public members, the media, and anyone tuning into Capitol television. There’s an element of vulnerability in testifying, or more accurately, sharing one’s story. For this bill, the women shared that they were either currently incarcerated or had been incarcerated and explained the difficulty in obtaining an ID and its importance. For many it was the first time they had ever been at the Capitol or met a State legislator. The women shared their stories at seven hearings over the course of three months. Through the process, they watched as their words and stories changed the minds of those around them and finally, changed the law. One woman who testified said, “I felt like my experience and my story mattered. That by sharing my story I helped pass this bill. That my input mattered and it was empowering. And it was validating, if that makes sense. That I was able to do something for the good of many.”

Our legislative session lasts just over 100 days but for the women who participated, the impact will continue. As one woman noted, “this has given me the confidence to share my story and experiences. What I say does matter, and I can make a difference.” We hope to see many more of our members and program participants next session, while they testify and attend hearings.

Through our YWCA community, we can continue to create experiences and outcomes for the benefit of the greater community. Join us in January 2018 and learn about the legislative process, share about the legislative process, and/or support our women as they advocate for themselves and many in similar situations.  For more information on the identification bill, please visit the State Capitol website.  For more information on how you can get involved in our policy and advocacy agenda, contact the Director of Policy, Kathleen Algire, at or 808-695-2633.

RISE! Job Readiness Program - Graduate Anna Snyder


RISE! (formerly known as Going Places Network or GPN) is an 8 week training program that meets once a week and focuses on three areas:  job readiness, personal development, and retail basics. During the job readiness training, they focus on resume writing, interview preparation, drafting cover letters, and developing an elevator pitch. The personal development training covers creating a vision board, goal setting, time management, women in transition, and women in the workplace. Lastly, retail basics teaches customer service, selling, and managing inventory. Through this program, women have access to a personal job coach, industry experts, guest speakers, and support staff.

We ended our first RISE! cohort last month with 90% of our participants landing jobs! One of our many shining stars in our program is Anna Snyder, who has been in the islands for 17 years. During her time here, she found it challenging to gain employment and grow professionally with the limited opportunities presented to her. The RISE! program gave her confidence in her communication and interviews skills, which was an area of known challenge for Anna.

Anna was first introduced to YWCA O‘ahu during her visits to the monthly benefit sale. She loved the assortment of clothing options at affordable prices. She heard about our programs and wanted to take advantage of them, and ended up connecting with Dress for Success™ at a job fair. Through Dress for Success ™, Anna received a professional suiting, which really helped since all her professional attire no longer fit her and her budget left it challenging to purchase a new work-appropriate outfit.  She was also quickly recruited to be part of the inaugural RISE! cohort.

The program included women from many different backgrounds. Anna said she, “appreciated being able to share her experiences and was happy to gain hope and restore her confidence.” Besides the professional attire, Anna said the most valuable aspect of the program for her was the mock interviews. They taught her how to be succinct in her response and gave her a chance to practice responding to challenging questions about her employment history. Each session began with a continental breakfast that was a welcoming addition because it allowed participants to enjoy their first meal of the day as they networked with other participants. At the end of the program, she was also offered to come back anytime to attend a few classes or just reconnect with the resources provided at YWCA O‘ahu, such as access to the computers.

Thanks to the RISE! program and Anna’s hard work, she landed a job at Finance Factors where she is getting acquainted with the staff and rigorous but fruitful training. Her advice is, “Join RISE! It’s well worth your time and investment to join the next RISE! program. There are many years of experience present in each cohort, and participants not only learn from the speakers and coaches, but from each other.”

If you would like to support RISE!, YWCA O‘ahu is looking for dedicated job coaches and, in particular, Human Resource professionals who have a background in resume writing, job readiness, and mock interviews. Also, a generous donation of $500 will give a woman access to this eight-week job support program that will help her address and eliminate the frustrating obstacles that she may face while she searches for new employment opportunities.

For more information on how to support RISE! please email or call 695-2603

LeaderLuncheon profile: Crystal Rose

40th Annual LeaderLuncheon  |  June 14, 2017  |  12:00-1:30pm  |  Sheraton Waikiki

Crystal Rose is a founding partner of Bays Lung Rose Holma. Crystal focuses on real estate, business, construction, and trust litigation. She has taken on some of the largest and most complex civil cases that have reshaped Hawaii’s business landscape. She also provides counseling and litigates disputes for clients, and is an expert in corporate governance. The Hilo native gives back to her community by serving on the Board of Directors for a variety of nonprofits, including The Nature Conservancy, Blue Planet Foundation, and Child and Family Service; plus large corporations such as Hawaiian Airlines, Gentry Homes, and Central Pacific Bank. Crystal also volunteers on the advisory boards of Kamehameha Schools, Catholic Charities, and many more.

Q & A with Crystal Rose


A great leader is someone with a passion for a goal or objective that is larger than them that adds value to their business and our community. Someone who is competent, strategic and focused ~ with a kind heart and an energetic ear. 


Always striving to do the right thing. Seeking advise when needed. Learning from my mistakes and mishaps over the years. And, having a fabulous husband and two wonderful sons who support me 110%!!


Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop ~ she was a visionary, servant leader whose compassion and foresight continues to serve our Hawaiian children today and for generations to come. Education is an equalizer and Princess Pauahi understood its power and purpose for her people.


I really don’t recall having a dream job – I just wanted to do something that would have meaning and value.


Follow your passion. Never give up.


Support each other! Develop your own personal business plan that provides you with a vision for your future and specific goals that you can achieve incrementally. Share it with our mentors. Seek advice from those that support you. Revise your plan as circumstances change but stay focused. Be courageous in thought and purpose. 

LeaderLuncheon honors women for the contributions they have made to their professions and in their community.  Join us in supporting Hawaii’s commitment to the advancement of women leaders by attending the 2017 LeaderLuncheon. To purchase tickets or for more information, call 695-2620 or click on the button below. 

LeaderLuncheon profile: Bettina Mehnert

40th Annual LeaderLuncheon  |  June 14, 2017  |  12:00-1:30pm  |  Sheraton Waikiki

Bettina Mehnert.jpg

Bettina Mehnert was AHL’s first female principal, director, and Chief Operating Officer, and in 2013, became the firm’s first female president and CEO. Under her guidance, AHL elevated its reputation as a high-tech firm and earned an international award for its innovative design of the Walgreens flagship store. The German native also helped spearhead AHL’s 1% Pro Bono program, which donates 1% of its hours to a design or planning project for local nonprofits. In her spare time, Bettina serves on the Board of Directors for YMCA Honolulu and PBS Hawaii, and is a trustee for St. Andrew’s Schools. In addition to her many individual awards and honors, Bettina was recently recognized as a Fellow in the American Institute of Architecture.

Q & A with Bettina Mehnert

What types of qualities make a good leader?

-    As a leader I believe you need to have patience when dealing with people to help them understand and appreciate decisions and circumstances, as well as giving them time to grow.

-    You need grit. Some things require extra effort and determination.

-    Courage and accountability. You need to be able to make a decision and commit to it. You also need humility and courage to admit and adjust when things don't go as planned.

-    And finally, passion. Liking, loving what you do comes across to other people and helps both your clients and your staff.

What has helped you become a more effective leader?

Patient mentors, and a good degree of impatience with myself.

Name a woman leader who inspires you and explain why.

Zaha Hadid, who was the first woman to win the most coveted prize in architecture, the Pritzker prize. She was extraordinarily intelligent, sophisticated and a true pioneer of contemporary design. Architecture is still a field of predominately men, and she showed how gender could fade into the background if it was systematically taken out of the equation in favor of an appreciation of sheer talent. 

I cried when she died last year. She continues to inspire me with her courage of convictions and her vision of leadership.

What was your dream job growing up?

I always wanted to be a jockey and race horses. Being outside, being close to one of my favorite animals, working with them all day, and …. Racing. It sounded heavenly.

Then I grew too tall.

What’s one of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever received?

“If you didn't get what you wanted, you didn’t try hard enough.” and “No matter what you do, you need to be able to sleep at night.” 

As a woman leader, what can you advise others to do to help each other or help the next generation of women leaders?

-    I believe that the single most important thing women can do is to support each other. Help each other professionally, personally and emotionally. There's a lot to be said for the benefits of what uses to be the "old boys network." Women should learn from that.  The book, Broad Influence by Times correspondent Jay Newton-Small describes how the women in the past administration banded together to make sure they were at the right meetings and found the courage to open the door to portals of power.  That concept is still applicable.

-    Don't take things personally. Business decisions aren't personal - they're business.

-    Ask questions and speak up. Women are often more considerate and as a result can appear less of a power player. Communicate!

LeaderLuncheon honors women for the contributions they have made to their professions and in their community.  Join us in supporting Hawaii’s commitment to the advancement of women leaders by attending the 2017 LeaderLuncheon. To purchase tickets or for more information, call 695-2620 or click on the button below.