ROADTRIP NATION Setting Course in Hawai‘i
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Roadtrip Nation is a national public television series that features young adults on a road trip, as they explore different career paths by talking with a range of professionals who do what they love. For the first time, “Roadtrip Nation” visits Hawai‘i for Setting Course in Hawai‘i, a four-part series that follows local college students Keakealani Pacheco, Tehani Louis-Perkins and Traven ‘Āpiki as they speak with community members from all walks of life.
With their enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering, the arts and math (STEAM), coupled with their deep love of Hawai‘i and its native culture, Keakealani, Tehani and Traven embark across the Big Island, Maui and O‘ahu, with the hope of getting closer to uncovering what it takes to create a life that you love.
Typically, participating roadtrippers travel across the continental U.S. in a green RV. In this Hawai‘i edition, Keakealani, Tehani and Traven drive around each island in a Jeep. The students find mentors from across the Islands who expose the roadtrippers to some of the most innovative breakthroughs in science and environmental conservation – taking place right in their own backyard.
The three students are all driven by their desire to serve their communities, but are unsure of which roles they want to pursue, and the paths that could lead them there.
Keakealani, a Kamehameha Schools Hawai‘i graduate with a passion for computer science, is navigating the difficult transition from high school to college. The Hawai‘i Community College student wants to find a way to use her interests in a way that will both indulge her entrepreneurial spirit and empower her community.
Traven, a student at University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, is an environmental studies major who is anchored by his Hawaiian culture. After moving all across the continent with his family until age 18, Traven is back home in the Islands, where he wants to be. But as he nears the end of his college experience, he is starting to feel the pressure of finding a job that he loves.
And Tehani, a Kamehameha Schools Kapālama graduate from Hale‘iwa, O‘ahu, is a biology and environmental science student at Whitman College in Washington State. Tehani is torn between returning to Hawai‘i after graduation to serve her community through working at a fishpond, or attending law school elsewhere in the hopes of affecting change through environmental law.
Keakealani, Tehani and Traven recently reflected upon their “Roadtrip Nation” experience, a year after the series was taped.
PBS Hawai‘i: What advice would you have for Hawai‘i students who want to stay in Hawai‘i but are unsure of the opportunities that are available?
Traven: The first thing anyone can do before they can look for opportunities is to identify their passions. It may take a lot of self-reflection, but unless we identify our passions, I feel like we are more susceptible to blindly jumping into any cause that presents itself. Once our passions become apparent, often times opportunity will find us. The best piece of advice I can offer…is to use your passion as a foundation to seek out and talk to people in the community who hold a position or job we would like to see ourselves in one day.
What was the most surprising thing you learned about yourself on the trip?
Tehani: The most surprising thing that I learned on this trip was how much I wanted to go into policy and law. I always had an interest in law and policy in high school and college, but it just seemed more pressing during the trip. Maybe it was due to the political climate of the United States and Hawai‘i. Environmental and Native Hawaiian policy and law had a huge tug on my na‘au (heart and mind) throughout this trip. I also understood that I needed to be able to wear multiple hats if I want to make a difference in my community and in Hawai‘i. I need to not only be able to understand environmental and biological aspects, but also the political side of it all, if I want resources and natural spaces to be conserved.
Out of all the people you interviewed for this series, which one had the most impact on you?
Keakealani: I think Dr. Misaki [Takabayashi, Interim Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at UH Hilo] really opened my eyes when she said that you need to bring all of yourself in everything you do. To bring all of yourself is to truly give it all you got.
How did your impression of Hawai‘i shift after the road trip?
Tehani: I think the more time I spend away from Hawai‘i, the more I learn to appreciate it. Traveling throughout Hawai‘i and speaking with individuals who want to help the Hawaiian community and make Hawai‘i a better place for all was really inspiring. I think it gave me hope for my generation who are all starting to blossom as leaders. Talking to professionals made me realize that they want to help others out, they want our Hawai‘i kids to succeed and they want the best for all of us, whether we are interconnected or not. Not to be a downer, but after going to school in the continental United States for a few years, [I realize] it’s not like Hawai‘i. People are not as uplifting and wanting the best for you; it’s more competitive and cutthroat. Going home to Hawai‘i and talking to professionals, especially in my field, is really refreshing and gives me hope.
What has been the most meaningful takeaway from your experience on “Roadtrip Nation,” and how are you applying it?
Keakealani: I’m trying to take more risks and explore what’s beyond the horizon. There is nothing wrong with wanting more for yourself and figuring out what you’re truly meant to do. I try to apply this in life and in my college career.
Traven: Knowing how easy it is to find mentors in our communities. With each phone call or email we made to book interviews, I was surprised with how easy everyone agreed to it. Many of my “career idols” have their mentors that guided them and they’re looking for the next generation to mentor. Sometimes it’s as easy as asking a simple question: “Would you mind meeting with me to talk about how you got to where you are now?”