YWCA O'ahu Highlights of 2016

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YWCA O‘ahu started in 1900 with the idea that women can come together to build friendships, develop shared values, and learn skills to support the community. Fast forward to 2016 and our mission of empowering women and girls is as important as ever.

Glass ceilings have been cracked, but gender barriers still exist. Women comprise nearly half of the American workforce, but are still underrepresented in the boardroom. As more and more women have become breadwinners for their family, YWCA Oahu’s programs and services have evolved to better serve their needs.

We’re excited to share YWCA Oahu’s highlights of 2016, which were made possible thanks to the generous support of foundations, businesses, and individuals like YOU, who believe in our mission. We know there are many deserving nonprofits across the state, which is why we are so grateful for your continued support of YWCA O‘ahu.

 Here is how your commitment has made an impact in our community:

As of Oct. 31, 2016, YWCA O'ahu has:

      Launched the inaugural Patsy T. Mink Leadership Alliance. Fourteen women were selected for the 6-month program in September and have already received coaching from some of the top female business professionals on O‘ahu. Topics include networking, building a collaborative team, and leading with authenticity.

     Coordinated the first Girls Summit on Hawaii Island. The Patsy T. Mink Center for Business & Leadership (MCBL) hosted the one-day conference at Hawaii Preparatory Academy in October and invited students from Honoka‘a High & Intermediate to participate. The theme of the Girls Summit was “Women in Science.” MCBL hosted another Girls Summit at Laniākea YWCA in March, with 120 students from St. Andrew’s Priory and Farrington High School. 

     Reached 1,000 Health & Wellness members. Nicole Enos, Health & Wellness/Member Services Manager, has revamped the group fitness schedule with new and exciting classes like Kung Fu for Beginners, Gentle (Chair) Yoga, Core Strength Yoga, plus affordable personal training packages.

     Celebrated our work furlough program’s one-year anniversary. In 2016, YWCA O‘ahu served 51 women in Ka Hale Ho‘āla Hou No Nā Wāhine, the state’s only community-based work furlough program for women. Of the 51 women, 77% successfully graduated and nearly half of the women moved into our Homebase transitional housing program on the third floor of Fernhurst YWCA. 

     Suited 426 economically disadvantaged women with interview and work attire through Dress for Success Honolulu. After receiving their first free suiting, 96% of women said they felt more confident in getting a job and 100% felt that having professional clothing will help them perform well in their new job. 

     Trained 906 participants and provided 514 hours of one-on-one counseling at MCBL (from Oct. 2015 - Sept. 2016). The women’s business center also helped start 16 new businesses and provided access to funding, totaling $122,400. 

These are just a handful of highlights of 2016, but none of these milestones could have been reached without your support. Please consider a year-end gift to YWCA O‘ahu to help sustain programs that serve women at every stage in life. Thank you in advance for your continued support and helping YWCA O‘ahu empower generations of women across Hawai‘i for more than 116 years. 

New Direction, New Clothes, New Job


Diana Leon has come a long way – both geographically and spiritually.

After moving from San Diego to Hau‘ula, Diana turned her life around with the help of YWCA Oahu’s economic advancement programs, including Dress for Success. Nearly a year ago, Diana described herself as a depressed, shut-out woman struggling with a mid-life crisis. Today, she is ready to take every opportunity that comes her way with a positive outlook on life.

Diana felt confident going into her interview, thanks to her new outfit from Dress for Success, and recently got hired on the spot as an A+ Group Leader at Laie Elementary School. She dressed so well, employees thought she was an auditor from the state! 

Born in Los Angeles and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, Diana entered the workforce straight out of high school. After a brief stint as a telemarketer in Tijuana, she moved to San Diego for better opportunities and found a retail position at The Gap, where coworkers praised her meticulous and creative merchandising displays.

Despite her success, Diana felt unfulfilled in life and wanted something more. After eight years in retail she quit her job, left her apartment and moved back with her parents. During this transitional period, a friend invited her to live with him on Oahu’s North Shore.

“I was just looking for a whole new perspective on life and an opportunity to start over,” Diana said. “I was kind of feeling stuck, like I didn’t really know where to go or what to do.”

Diana took a leap of faith and made the journey to Hau‘ula, where she lived rent-free by taking care of the owner’s property. Although she had a place to live, Diana lacked income so she relied on food stamps while looking for a job. She applied to nearly 20 openings, from Haleiwa to Kailua, but only heard from a few employers. One of the barriers that Diana worried about during the hiring process is that she didn’t have appropriate attire for interviews.

“That was my main concern, because I can work on my resume, I can work on my cover letter, but when they see me…I have no work clothes at all, I have flip flops and shorts,” Diana said. That’s when her case manager suggested she apply to Dress for Success.

After speaking with one of the coordinators, Diana also enrolled in the Going Places Network (GPN) by Walmart, an eight-week program that helps unemployed and under-employed women build and develop professional skills as they search for jobs.

During her first GPN class, Diana and the rest of the participants received cell phones through the “Success is Calling” partnership with TracFone. She didn’t have a phone at the time and knew that this was a major asset as a job seeker. Diana also worked one-on-one with a mentor to help her prepare for an interview the following day.

After the class, Program Coordinator Bettelyn Smith helped Diana select an outfit in the Dress for Success boutique, which is supplied with clothing donations from the community. Once Bettelyn put together several professional options, she gave Diana the freedom to insert her own style into the mix. Diana decided on a mustard top with a blue cardigan, paired with grey dress pants and a thin tan belt, plus a red pendant necklace for a pop of color.

“I was going for bright colors, because I didn’t want to be so serious in my outfit, and it worked great because the people I went to interview with thought I was a completely different person,” she said. “They saw me walking in with my nice shoes and my dress pants and my cardigan and my purse. They thought that I was the auditor and they were scared!”

With the confidence she received from her new outfit paired with her mentor’s advice, Diana was instantly offered the job. As a group leader, she’ll be supervising children after school by helping them with homework and keeping them active through games and crafts.

Diana can’t express how grateful she is for YWCA Oahu’s programs and says her experience with Dress for Success played a big role in landing her new job.

“Having a coach work with me, having the new phone and the new outfit, that whole thing just made it all come together and helped me feel empowered to go out there and knock them out. Even if that didn’t work, then I was ready for the next one,” she said.

Diana believes that taking action and stepping out of her bubble was the hardest step in getting over her depression, and now she wants to pay it forward by spreading awareness of these free resources to her friends and others in the community.

“If you just say ‘yes’ or go in and ask, all of a sudden it’s like these people are taking your hand and helping you out to land the job that you want. You can’t lose anything if you don’t have anything to lose,” Diana added. “As soon as I started saying ‘yes’ to the opportunities, that’s when they started appearing. Now I get to start this new job in this new field, and I’m really excited about that.”

Supporting DV Survivors #WorkAgainstViolence

Did you know that 1 in 4 will become a victim of domestic violence? Did you know that 1 in 15 children is exposed to intimate partner violence every year and that 90% of them witness the abuse? These are just a few statistics on how domestic violence has quietly become commonplace in our society. That’s why this month, YWCA’s across the world are promoting a Week Without Violence, from Oct. 17-21. We want to shed light on this critical issue by focusing on education and awareness.

From a woman beaten with a baseball bat, to a woman being raped by a family member, YWCA Oahu’s case managers have heard dozens of horrific stories from the women in our work furlough program. The majority of incarcerated women that come through our Fernhurst residence have been victims of domestic violence (DV). As a result of the violence they have experienced, some women have turned into perpetrators, often starting for the purpose of self-defense.

Kelcie-Anne Watson is a full-time Case Manager and Roshian Lafaele is Assistant Manager at the Fernhurst YWCA in Makiki. It’s mandatory that they meet with the residents twice a month, but sometimes they meet much more frequently. Women talk to them about problems stemming from work, other residents, their family, and a variety of personal matters, including their troubled pasts.

“What we get is the aftermath of getting abused,” Kelcie said. “They’re not wanting to deal with the domestic violence issue right then and there because it’s not an in-the-moment situation. We’re guiding them through being a domestic violence survivor and talking about being confident, loving yourself and realizing that people don’t treat people like that.”

The repercussions of domestic violence can remain with victims for years. According to Kelcie and Roshian, women develop trust issues, lose confidence, and struggle to parent their children without becoming violent or angry. They begin to believe that their abusive relationships, which are often with someone who also has an arrest record, are all they’re good for. One of the biggest effects of DV is that victims become perpetrators, and many victims turn to drugs to numb themselves as a way of coping, which results in their arrest.

“For some of these residents, the only time they were sober is the time they were locked up. It’s the only real time of trying to handle things soberly,” Roshian said. “Our job is to make sure that if they are ready to revisit the past, we have to make sure there’s enough time to provide support so that she’s not just opening up a can of worms and then just leave it at that. There has to be a positive outcome.”

To help work furlough residents begin the healing process and transition into the community, women are invited to participate in life skills classes about maintaining healthy relationships, self-love, and self-care. The new S.E.E.D.S. Initiative will also help women make positive lifestyle choices through a customized model focusing on social connectivity, exercise, education, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep. One of the biggest challenges for case managers is trying to change women’s attitudes and perspectives—to understand that they don’t deserve to be mistreated.

“We’re changing lives and it’s hard. It doesn’t always go the way we want it to go,” Kelcie said. “Women are going to fall short sometimes and make mistakes, but all we can do is try to pick them up, shake the dust off their shoulders and move forward.”

As for what the community can do to help reduce domestic violence, Roshian suggested that there should be equal advocacy for men as victims of domestic violence, while Kelcie said that people need to stop turning a blind eye to potential DV situations.

“I think turning a blind eye is the worst thing someone could do,” Kelcie added. “You don’t even have to see anyone hitting, even if you hear someone going off-the-wall crazy, it’s important to call 911.”

If you want to take action against domestic abuse, please click here. You can also visit Laniākea YWCA during the Week Without Violence (Oct.17-21) to view our Clothesline Project--raising awareness of the impact of violence against women, celebrating a woman's strength to survive, and providing another way for women to break their silence surrounding domestic violence.

Introducing the Inaugural Cohort of the Patsy T. Mink Leadership Alliance

Despite progress on gender equality, women are still significantly underrepresented in top-level management. According to CNN, just 5% of companies have female CEOs and only 16.5% of companies have women as top-level executives. The Patsy T. Mink Center for Business & Leadership is looking to change that.

With the guidance of the MCBL Advisory Board, YWCA O'ahu is proud to announce a new initiative, the Patsy T. Mink Leadership Alliance. Susan Utsugi, Senior Vice President & Director of Business Banking at Central Pacific Bank and Chair of the MCBL Leadership Committee, said this 6-month program was created by women for women to enhance their leadership skills and to deal with challenges and opportunities in their career and personal lives.

"We want to make sure that we can continue to have generations of women leaders in Hawaii,” Utsugi said. “I’m so happy that we could come together under the YWCA and the Mink Center for Business & Leadership and create this initiative. I think there’s a real need for this kind of program.”

Many for-profit and non-profit organizations are making gender diversity a priority in the workplace and have sponsored emerging female leaders within their companies. Candidates submitted resumes with two letters of recommendation, committed to attending at least 80% of meetings and events, and completed individual interviews with members of the MCBL Advisory Board in August.

“We were very careful in our selection and wanted to make sure that the cohort was comprised of women that really set the bar high,” Utsugi said. “I hope they’re able to build skills as well as confidence in themselves. I think you can have a lot of tangible skills and we can do a lot of tangible training, but we also want to make sure that deep inside they have that confidence to know they are great leaders.”

The 14 women of the inaugural cohort are:

  • Kristin Alm, Remedy Intelligent Staffing, Human Resources Manager

  • Emi Au, American Savings Bank, First VP, Director of Financial Planning & Analysis

  • Tracy Camuso, Group 70 International, Land Use/Environmental Planner

  • Farrah-Marie Gomes, Ph.D., University of Hawaii, Interim Associate VP for Student Affairs

  • Tiffany Hatchett, Central Pacific Bank, Branch Manager

  • Jennifer Hee, The Salvation Army, Chief Development Officer

  • Chancy Hopper, Maui County Council, Supervising Legislative Analyst

  • Ashlee Kishimoto, Hawaiian Airlines, Senior Director of Investor Relations

  • Beth Kuch, Hawaii Community Foundation, Associate Director, Communications

  • Jessica Munoz, Ho‘ola Na Pua, Founder/President

  • Runjini Murthy, Howard Hughes Corporation, Database Marketing Manager

  • Sarah Pardieck, Kaiser Permanente, Program Manager, Health Care Reform, Exchange Operations & Membership Admin

  • Erinn Tomlinson, Bishop & Company, Executive Recruiter

  • Isla Young, Maui Economic Development Board, Director of K-12 STEM Education, Women in Technology Project

Sherri Okinaga, Vice President of Corporate Training & Development at First Hawaiian Bank, helped design the curriculum for the Leadership Alliance. She believes some of the biggest challenges women face in their careers include making time to invest in a network and overcoming a hesitation to negotiate.

“Women in leadership represent a two-way street. While organizations must change the culture and structure of work to enable women to advance, women must also invest in honing leadership skills that will increase their opportunities for success in the workplace,” Okinaga said.

The curriculum includes coaching from some of the top female business professionals on O‘ahu, and focuses on the topics of leading a collaborative team, strategic planning, financial business acumen, conflict management, negotiation, community service coaching and much more.

Participants will also receive special seating at the Wahine Forum Conference, reserved seating at two Wahine Forum Network luncheons, and networking coaching from Pineapple Tweed Founder & President Piia Aarma at Downtown Uncorked. Okinaga will kick off the program on Sept. 20 with a session on leading authentically and the program will conclude with a graduation ceremony in March 2017.

“The Patsy T. Mink Leadership Alliance was born out of the need to prepare our community’s women leaders for on-going success,” Okinaga said. “Women are still underrepresented at every level in the corporate pipeline. It is our hope that through this leadership program, participants will learn to value their own natural talents, become their own best advocates, build their influence, and galvanize change.”

What's new with Health & Wellness

Progress is impossible without change, so YWCA O‘ahu fitness members can look forward to some positive developments at our Laniākea headquarters. One of our key additions is the arrival of Nicole Enos, YWCA Oahu’s new Membership & Wellness Manager. Nicole shares how she found her way to the YWCA and how she plans to elevate the downtown program.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in business and finance from Hawaii Pacific University, Nicole worked in project management, but didn’t find the work as fulfilling as she imagined. She had always dreamed of working in fitness, but when a former acquaintance told her she’d never become a personal trainer, Nicole tossed the idea aside. After some self-reflection, she decided that nobody could tell her what she could and could not accomplish, so she took a leap of faith and switched career paths.

As she was studying to become a personal trainer, Nicole began shadowing Chad Muetzel’s boot camp at Laniākea YWCA in 2014. Shortly after, she was running her own boot camp with the support of then Health & Wellness Manager, Vangie White.

Over the course of several years, Nicole earned her personal trainer certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, where she also received a certification in Corrective Exercise. She’s currently in the process of receiving her Fitness Nutrition certification.

“Corrective exercise is useful because most people have some sort of a distortion or an injury,” Nicole said. “Improper form is often linked to muscle imbalance of some sort and it pretty much applies to everyone, especially when working with senior populations.”

After receiving her certification, Nicole worked with a variety of clients as a personal trainer for a popular gym chain, but decided that the corporate environment didn’t fit her style. The timing aligned when Vangie called her out of the blue to see if she was interested in joining the YWCA O‘ahu staff.

“I liked training there, I learned a lot and it was definitely a good place to start, but it was time for the switch,” Nicole said. “It’s nicer to be here where it’s more member-oriented and community-oriented and focusing on actually serving our members rather than selling things to them.”

Now Nicole’s ready to switch things up at YWCA O‘ahu. She has already revived the Gentle Yoga class, which is scheduled to start on August 17, and hopes to increase awareness of the free and subsidized options offered by health insurers.

“I’d like to see us continue expanding our senior population. We’re reaching out to the seniors in the community to show them what we have to offer, as well as the professionals and students in the area,” she said.

Nicole has also created new and affordable personal training packages at Laniākea. Her passion for fitness is evident as she spoke about the benefits of having a personal trainer.

“I think the biggest benefit to me is that you get to make the most out of your time and your gym membership. You take the work out of figuring out what to do and you see your results so much faster,” she said. “Even trainers hire trainers for that reason. They’re looking at it from the outside to see what you need to work on and what works for you. It’s pushing you outside of your comfort zone but within your limits.”

Nicole added that having a personal trainer isn’t just for athletes or for weight loss. For seniors or people just starting out, personal training sessions can help them get acquainted and comfortable with the exercise machines and to make sure their technique is correct to set a strong foundation. YWCA Oahu’s training packages are also more affordable than many nearby gyms.

For prices and for more information about personal training packages, please click here or call 808.538.7061.