HITOP Cohort 3 Recap

Jun 22, 2023 | Program Updates

For the third cohort of the Hawai’i Talent Onboarding Program (HITOP), it meant getting muddy in the taro patch, learning about the importance of food insecurity, and sharing personal stories with new friends.

Cultivating Sustainable Agriculture and Stories of Resilience:
The third cohort began their journey at Kako‘o ‘Ōiwi, a non-profit organization dedicated to growing and selling local produce. As they immersed themselves in the ahupua’a divisions and learned the tales of Kalo and Ulu, they discovered the vital role of sustainable agriculture in Hawai’i. Getting their hands muddy in the Lepo, they nurtured the taro patch, symbolizing a commitment to preserving ancient customs and fostering resilience within the community.

Addressing Food Insecurity with Heart and Purpose:
At The Pantry by Feeding Hawaii Together, the cohort delved into the pervasive issue of food insecurity on the islands. Their eyes were opened to the harsh reality that one in six people in Hawai’i faces this challenge, struggling to access consistent and nutritious meals. Through active involvement in sorting and packing food, they witnessed the tireless efforts of The Pantry in alleviating hunger and ensuring dignity through client choice. Their hearts were ignited with a deeper understanding of the various strategies employed to combat food insecurity within the local community.

Empowering Lives and Building Community:
The cohort’s visit to the Institute for Human Services‘ Women & Family Shelter left an indelible mark on their hearts. They witnessed firsthand the diverse range of programs designed to empower individuals to secure housing, healthcare, and meaningful employment. As they explored Kahauiki Village, a transformative permanent supportive housing community for formerly homeless households, they experienced the tangible impact of affordable housing, vocational programs, education, and childcare services. Duane Kurisu, one of the founders, inspired them with his speech, revealing the incredible public/private partnership that birthed the village and its enduring legacy of good.

Building Leaders and Forging Connections:
HITOP not only provided opportunities for community engagement but also nurtured leadership skills and cultural intelligence. The cohort participated in workshops led by Glen Furuya and Debbie Bacon of Leadership Works that equipped them with the tools to be effective leaders in the unique context of Hawai’i’s rich culture. Networking events facilitated connections with employers, community partners, and sponsors, creating a vibrant professional community that extends beyond the program.

As HITOP Cohort 3’s journey comes to a close, the impact of their experiences reverberates. Through muddy hands, shared stories, and a commitment to positive change, they gained a deeper appreciation for the challenges and resilience within Hawai’i’s communities. Their journey was not only about personal growth but also about building a foundation of awareness and compassion. The HITOP program continues to serve as a beacon of knowledge, connection, and empowerment, opening doors for new and returning residents to embrace Hawai’i’s culture, history, and business community.

“The HITOP program was a unique opportunity to learn about Hawai’i’s culture, history, and business community,” said Taylor Herring of Howard Hughes. “I also made some great friends who I know I’ll stay in touch with.”

Mahalo to Kako‘o ‘Ōiwi, Institute for Human Services, The Pantry by Feeding Hawaii Together, Leadership Works and ‘Iolani Palace. for their invaluable partnership and contributions to the success of HITOP Cohort 3’s journey. Together, we strive to make a lasting difference in the lives of individuals and communities throughout Hawai’i.


We hope you enjoyed this recap of the third cohort of HITOP! If you are interested in learning more about the program, please visit our website at www.moversandshakas.org.