When Shaun Pederson heard about a leadership development program that would give him a clearer-eyed perspective of the place his family has called home since 1993—he pounced at the opportunity. “When I was told about the program and what it offers, I immediately wanted to be a part of it,” he said. “I applied that day.”
Last summer, Pederson, a Realtor-Salesperson with Island Sotheby’s International Realty, became a newly minted member of the Ka Ipu Kukui Fellows Class of 2019. Now in its twelfth year, Ka Ipu Kukui Fellows is a nonprofit, community-based program that identifies and develops young leaders in Maui County. Fellows are selected through a competitive process conducted by the members of the Ka Ipu Kukui Board of Directors.
Today, after nearly a year of exploring Maui County from the inside out, Pederson says Ka Ipu Kukui has given him a fresh outlook on what makes his community tick. “I am a seeker of knowledge and that’s exactly what this program offers,” he said. “It connects us with the right people to be able to make a difference in Maui Nui.”
Ka Ipu Kukui (“crucible of light”) Fellows is a year-long leadership development program uniquely designed for community-identified current and future leaders of Maui County. Ka Ipu Kukui was conceived more than a decade ago by Decisions Maui and Maui Economic Development Board’s (MEDB) Focus Maui Nui, which sought to develop community leaders through a program that would focus on planning for Maui County’s future. With that in mind, the fellowship curriculum addresses the short- and long-term challenges facing Maui, Lanai and Molokai and presents varying perspectives of those challenges through monthly experiential learning opportunities called “halawai.” Each halawai has a thematic focus—ranging from infrastructure and land use planning to agriculture and healthcare—and gives participants a backstage pass to the inner workings of Maui County.
Among other things, Pederson and his classmates have met with county and state lawmakers, planted native vegetation on Kahoolawe, and weeded invasive plants in the West Maui Mountains.
With each halawai, participants gain a more comprehensive picture of what makes Maui County tick—and a better understanding of the complex issues facing their community. Pederson sums up the program in a single word. “Priceless,” he said. “The places we have gone, the people we have met, the information that we have been privy too, the questions we have been able to ask, and the experiences so far have all been priceless.”
To date, 141 fellows have graduated from the program; they represent a diverse cross-section of industries, and most, if not all, serve on boards, commissions and committees or participate in other community service activities. Pederson is no exception. He says Ka Ipu Kukui has made him a more informed and engaged citizen, and has inspired him to give back in even more meaningful ways. “This program has motivated me to want to get on to a board or committee that will have a direct impact on Maui Nui,” he said. “Through this program, I have become aware of many of these boards and committees, along with community service projects that I never knew existed.”
That is one of the many reasons why he encourages others to consider applying to be a Ka Ipu Kukui Fellow. For any prospective applicant, he said, “I would ask them what they think of Maui Nui and what their vision of the future is. If that is something they want to know more about, or have a hand in shaping, I recommend applying.’
He also hopes community members will rally around Ka Ipu Kukui Fellows and support it financially or otherwise. “This is one of Maui Nui’s top programs—and one many people probably haven’t heard of,” he said. Given the chance, Pederson said, “I would share with them my experience and the effect it has had on me.”
The Maui News – February 16, 2019