Empowering the Next Generation Through Mentorship

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Hello! My name is Taylor McKenzie and I am a senior at Sacred Hearts Academy. I am also a member of the Girls Got Grit (GGG) mentorship program, which connects students at Sacred Hearts Academy to mentorships with female leaders in the community. Through GGG, I had the opportunity to learn at the YWCA during an eight-week mentorship. 

In history class, we discussed inequality like it was a thing of the past that we are not still dealing with today. This is not true. An example of current inequality is who is being incarcerated in Hawai‘i. In 2013, 44 percent of female prisoners were Native Hawaiians, despite only accounting for 19.8 percent of the population. This demonstrates that Native Hawaiians are disproportionately affected by the justice system. Not only is our society suffering from inequality, more often than not, the people who are being hit the hardest are women. Female incarceration rates have been a growing issue in Hawaiʻi for some time. The majority of imprisoned women are not only Native Hawaiian, they are also mothers. In 2008, the Department of Human Services found that 85 percent of incarcerated women in Hawaiʻi have children. This is 10 percentage points higher than the nationwide average. 

The YWCA is one of the organizations that is working to put an end to the inequality in Hawaiʻi and around the world. In our community, they are a tremendous support in helping previously incarcerated women re-enter the community and reconnect with their families. Through my mentorship at the YWCA, I reconnected with my dream to become a journalist who uses words to make a difference. I plan to continue writing about the issues that women face in the world and support the YWCA in their mission to solve these problems.

MCBL Launches Second Patsy T. Mink Leadership Alliance Cohort

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The Patsy T. Mink Center for Business & Leadership (MCBL) at YWCA O‘ahu has launched the second cohort of their Leadership Alliance. Twenty-two outstanding women from a variety of industries were selected to participate in the program, which aims to further develop management and leadership skills in an effort to increase the representation of women executives in Hawai‘i.

“We are very excited to start this journey with a new and inspiring group of emerging women leaders,” said Terri Funakoshi, MCBL Director. “We look forward to working closely with them and empowering them to become their personal and professional best.”

The future Mink Leaders began an intensive 10‐month program that will culminate in a community service capstone project and graduation ceremony in June 2018. Session topics will include Strategic Planning, Emotional Intelligence, Social Capital Building, Principles of Negotiation, Financial Business Acumen and Intrapreneurial Thinking – a majority of which will be facilitated by prominent women leaders. A big mahalo goes to the signature sponsor for this second cohort, Kaiser Permanente.

Participants have already attended the first two sessions in the series. On September 8, the official launch and orientation session was held at YWCA O‘ahu’s beautiful Kokokahi facility, with a class on Group Facilitation. On September 18, the Alliance visited YWCA O‘ahu Fernhurst to learn about the many programs that are dedicated to empowering and supporting women transitioning out of prison, with the goal of successfully reintegrating these women into the community and reducing recidivism.

Next month, cohort members will attend Hawaii Business Magazine’s 10th annual Wahine Forum, Hawai‘i’s largest leadership and career development conference for women. With a theme of “Work Together, Rise Together,” this year’s Forum will feature more than 20 speakers, with a keynote address by Miriam Hernandez-Kakol, U.S. Service Line Leader for Customer and Operations, KPMG. MCBL, along with YWCA O‘ahu, are special partners with Hawaii Business Magazine for the Wahine Forum Conference.

The Patsy T. Mink Center for Business & Leadership was established by YWCA O‘ahu, the U.S. Small Business Administration and a community of partners to become the only Women’s Business Center (WBC) in Hawai‘i. WBCs are designed to assist women in starting and growing small businesses, and seek to “level the playing field” for women entrepreneurs who still face unique obstacles in the business world. The Patsy T. Mink Leadership Alliance launched in September 2016 with its inaugural cohort of 14 women, who successfully completed the program and graduated in March 2017. The program is named in honor of Patsy T. Mink, the first female Asian American and the first female from Hawai‘i to serve in the U.S. Congress.

Are you a mid-career professional woman who is looking for a way to enhance your leadership skills?  Do you know of a woman who has been interested in growing her network to help her progress her career?  If so,

click here to learn more about THE PATSY T. MINK LEADERSHIP ALLIANCe. 

 

 

 

Much More Than a Campsite

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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:  https://www.ywcaoahu.org/aquatics.  To sponsor adaptive swim scholarships, please visit:  https://www.ywcaoahu.org/donate/

 

HERstory

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 kalgire@ywcaoahu.org or 808-695-2633.

RISE! Job Readiness Program - Graduate Anna Snyder

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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 dfsh@ywcaoahu.org or call 695-2603