100 years

Strengthening Hawai‘i’s Communities
Stories of Impact

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Bridging the Gap

ClimbHI connects Hawai‘i’s keiki to Local leaders and future careers

Bridging the GapHigh school students from across Hawaiʻi Island attend an immersive workforce development program
focused on hospitality that includes an overnight stay at the Westin Hāpuna.

Photo courtesy of ClimbHI Bridge

Thirteen years ago, Julie Morikawa noticed a disconnect between Hawai‘i’s education and professional sectors. While sitting in business meetings, the hospitality tech expert saw opportunities to engage local students pass by unaddressed. Executives were too busy to reach out to schools with mentorship and coaching possibilities, while teachers were too overwhelmed to establish career pathways for their students.

"So many of our keiki feel like they need to leave Hawai‘i in order to fly," says Morikawa. "If we’re not showcasing all the opportunities available, how do we expect our youth to know what they can do?”

Morikawa created an online portal to connect educators with the business community. ClimbHI Bridge is a simple, effective match-making service: Hawai‘i business professionals post what they have to offer, and teachers search for what they need. The portal’s eleven categories cover everything from guest speakers to career fairs, job shadowing, internships, judging and coaching, site visits, jobs, scholarships, materials, and resources. The goal is to aggregate needs and opportunities, allowing educators to easily secure inspiring and relevant resources for their students.

ClimbHI Bridge has proven popular: 427 professionals have uploaded opportunities. More than 3,200 educators enrolled in the program and last year 32,000 students from kindergarten to post-secondary benefitted from connections made via ClimbHI Bridge. The portal’s top user is James Campbell High School in ‘Ewa Beach, O‘ahu, the largest public high school in the state. The second highest user was a single teacher from Kohala High School on Hawai‘i Island. Fern White planned a small event that ballooned into a major career fair with thirty volunteer speakers. Hawai‘i Island mayor Mitch Roth is another ClimbHI Bridge super user. He recommended that Hawai‘i County go live on the portal, showcasing the many different opportunities available within local government.

ClimbHI Bridge is supported in part by the Kūkiʻo Community Fund—a neighborhood fund on Hawai‘i Island administered by the Hawai‘i Community Foundation. Members of the Kūkiʻo neighborhood wanted to find a way to uplift and inspire the youth of West Hawai‘i; ClimbHI was a perfect fit.

Morikawa has nothing but praise for Hawai‘i’s professionals who have shown up for Island keiki. “I think it’s truly a story of aloha at its finest,” she says.

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