In honor of Tourism Month, the HTA would like to share an editorial piece by Kezeah Bautista, an 11th grader at Farrington High School, who recently participated in the Leadership, Exploration and Inspiration (LEI) tourism industry career development program held at the Hawaii Convention Center on April 10, 2015.
ClimbHI, a non-profit organization, in partnership with HTA, hosted the fourth annual LEI career development program on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii Island. More than 60 industry partners including 21 full-service hotels donated their time to participate in the one-day program through speeches, hotel site visits or booths at the career fair. This statewide program continues to grow every year. This year, there were more than 800 high school and college student participants.
With the little knowledge I had on the LEI program, my first steps into the Hawaii Convention Center were taken with anticipation as to what I would be taught and who I would meet.
I was given broad information before the event on where we were going, that we’d be learning more about the tourism and hospitality industry, and that many other schools would be joining us. I wasn’t very familiar with the industry and knew this was my opportunity to expand my interests. Just as the acronym “L.E.I” implies, this experience led me to explore, and inspired me to make it a goal to give back to my community.
“Leadership,” a word foreign to my vocabulary because my whole life I’ve been quiet and kept to myself. To lead, I thought, meant to take control and simply give orders, but from this program I learned there is more meaning to leading. Everyone has their own paved pathway to a successful life, but there are also many barriers that stir up confusion as to where one should go. To be a leader, is not to tell others which road to follow, but to guide them onto a path that they will find benefits for themselves. I got to meet many mentors and listen to different experiences from students who are returnees of the program, their passion for the L.E.I. experience really interested me.
“Exploration,” a word I never understood well because with parents who have a busy schedule and a brother who has moved to another state, I lack the opportunity to indulge in Hawaii’s attractions and popular scenery. With the exception of a competition that occurred the same week as this program, this became my first experience of actually entering a hotel. I was able to experience their delicious food and relaxing rooms, and learn about the workers who communicate with one another in order to ensure a guest’s satisfaction during their stay. I learned that a lot of departments work in different areas of the hotel and that they’re all connected. One job leads to another, which is why being a part of the tourism and hospitality industry is an opportunity for people that hold many different types of abilities and skills.
“Inspiration” is one of the many things I gained from being a participant in this program. My paradigm shift during the program occurred when everyone changed into uniform shirts. It seems unusual to say that “changing shirts” encouraged me, but it really did. The minute we put on our t-shirts we did not belong to a certain school, we were no longer classified by the areas we came from, and when we all put on that same t-shirt we became united. This simple change allowed us to communicate rather than focus on our differences. We entered with our individual school pride and left as a cohesive unit.
My goal for senior year is definitely to attend the LEI program again. I would love to share what inspired me and what I learned from this experience. Tourism is Hawaii’s lifeline and what keeps our state flourishing. Hospitality is what leaves a mark on the ongoing cycle of tourists that we welcome to our islands with warm aloha. Hawaii is the home of aloha, and it’s programs like LEI that reminds us students that each one of us is essential to the success of our islands.