2009 Mentoring Conference at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center - Hilo, Hawaii

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Figure 1: Joe Pascarelli from the International Mentoring Association and the Department of Education Hilo/Laupahoehoe/Waiakea Community Alliance.

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Figure 2: Left to Right - Neil Barker, Gemini Observatory; Paula Thomas, Huiana Internship Program; and Nanette Bishop, School Coordinator Waiakea High School in Hilo, discuss their experiences of mentoring programs.

The first Hawai‘i Island Mentoring conference, sponsored by the Hilo/Waiakea/Laupahoehoe District Department of Education and its Community Alliance team (the Community Alliance is made up of Hilo businesses, education, and community leaders), was held at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center on Saturday, November 14, 2009. The keynote speaker, Dr. Joseph Pascarelli, President of the International Mentoring Association, promoted the concept of mentoring at all levels; for educators, businesses and community partner organizations.

Valarie Takata, School District Superintendent, provided the necessary vision for this conference.  Looking to the future in these challenging times, she recognized the power of mentoring and its importance in developing human potential.

The conference attracted over 80 participants ranging from teachers, rotarians, business people, community leaders and representatives across the astronomy community. Dr. Pascarelli inspired the audience by sharing his global expertise on how mentoring empowers people in taking ownership of their future. He challenged the audience to think about their personal life experiences and how mentoring could apply to developing not only their future but also that of others. A panel of local business and community leaders then shared their personal perspectives of how mentoring has inspired and empowered their institutions and programs here in Hawai‘i.

The conference was a successful first step in building bridges to future possibilities. Adrienne Oliver, Representative of the Rotary Club of South Hilo, commented that mentoring can expand and support the career opportunities for the youth of our community, develop a future workforce, and increase understanding between our business and education communities.  "It is a great opportunity for members of the business community to share their expertise with our young people and also to gain new knowledge from the younger generations," commented Oliver.

Rachel Mason, an astronomer with Gemini Observatory, obtained useful guidance in the types of questions you might find useful in a mentoring session such as, 'What approaches have you tried with this problem so far?' She also mentioned, "It's useful to be reminded that mentoring is not counseling or instruction and that you need to listen more than talk".

After the conference, David DeLuz (Big Island Toyota) talked about one of the things he learned which was that the key to effective mentoring is to be aware of generational differences and understand the generation to generation values. DeLuz added that you need to be aware that life is situational, and we need to embrace this because it also means that mentoring is dynamic and is always a work in process, it is continuously evolving depending on the needs of each generation. Overall, DeLuz felt mentoring was a means to EMPOWER THE INDIVIDUAL; the goal is having an individual know what they want to do with their lives! 

The audience left inspired by a video of Josh Groban’s song You Raise Me Up, and the organizers were left with no doubt that this is a journey with overwhelming support to develop the power and impact of mentoring in our local schools, businesses and community.

The conference provided further inspiration and ideas to the participating Gemini staff in developing the Gemini mentoring program for 2010 and beyond. Participants left the sessions with no doubt that what they learned would impact Gemini's staff, our communities, and potential future workforce.