A Budding Leader

My name is Janelle Mateo and I am a sophomore at Waipahu high school. My hobbies include spoken word poetry, writing short stories, and reading. I am the upcoming PAAC President for Waipahu and became inspired to run for the position due to my involvement with the leadership program. I joined the program in order to improve myself as a leader and as a global citizen. I anticipate to continue being active in PAAC and to continue educating myself about the world around me.

Rolled up jeans, knee deep in mud, and nimble hands rustling through weeds: the Kualoa excursion was an experience that tied the final loose knots of the leadership program together. From standing on a thin wire 30 feet above the ground, to standing barefoot in mud a foot underground, I have learned to adapt to unfamiliar situations and take risks. As someone who prefers to be organized and neat, the Kualoa excursion truly took me out of my comfort zone. Though it might’ve took me a while to allow myself to truly get to know mother nature on a very intimate note, taking that small step made proudness well up in my chest. This program taught me to see risks as a chance for adventure and an adventure this experience was. With my laughter flowing as freely as the streams that was littered with my friends working together and my smile as deep as the mud that I had tried so hard not to fall in, adventure is exhilarating.

But what makes adventure so exciting is when you have others with you to experience it too. The Global Leadership program gave me so many opportunities to create lasting friendships and ignite that immediate spark of connection with people who don’t go to the same school as me. In the leadership program itself, I have made strong friendships with people that I now hold very dearly to my heart. From meeting each other in pressed business clothes to joking with each other in a taro patch, we have come full circle. Through the various workshops we have done, the conferences we have lead together, and the time we spent in between, we all became better leaders and greater friends. We are twenty personalities and twenty backgrounds who have one main goal: We aspire to become stronger leaders and to achieve global citizenship. I never was one who could conversations with a new person for very long, but all of these peers I have met threw my shy character out of the window. I began to develop a sense of ease when I meet new people. I feel it was mainly because PAAC brings together the like-minded and the ambitious.26613382514_efcd76645f_k

On a more personal level, this program gave me experiences that helped me to find myself and my place in this world. Ever since the beginning, I had this small inkling that I was set out to do great things and achieve my goals but I would doubt myself in the end. But as the months went on in the program, I slowly became the person I’ve always wanted to be. In the networking workshop in November, I learned how to speak to adults and to properly network. For me, talking to peers was one thing, but talking to adults who hold high statuses was way out of my ballpark. But at the end of the workshop, I felt ready to take up a conversation with anyone! I met Ambassador Moriarty and Joshua Cooper, two people who I now look up to. Their belief in human rights and education further inspired me to continue chasing my dreams as a teacher, to appreciate education, and to keep improving myself as a global citizen. As an emerging global citizen, I want to make a great impact on the world. Seeing how Joshua Cooper and Ambassador Moriarty took steps to help nations all over, I knew in my heart that I wanted to do the same.

At Fall Conference, I met Bob Harris who inspired the non-profit organization, Kiva. He taught me that we should keep giving back to this interconnected world. These people that I’ve met have encouraged me to become one of the stepping stones to creating greater relations between nations in this progressive world. During the Design Thinking Process workshop in February, I realized that learning new things is not only important but also fun! Prior to this, I had no experience whatsoever with this process and was excited to see what it had in store for me. But as I worked through the process, I began to love being given new challenges and working together with my team to solve them. I always had this stigma around education that it just wasn’t fun due to the hours I spent sitting down in an uncomfortable chair at school as I listened to lectures. But now I know that learning doesn’t always have to be that way, it can be engaging and eye-opening. Finally, at Global Vision Summit, after going through the Design Thinking Process again, my mindset has geared itself towards the idea that anyone can make a difference in this world. The summit was a mixing pot of ethnicities and ages but at the end of it all, we were all inspired to take what we learned and to keep them as tools for changing the world.

As youth, we are usually perceived to be ignorant when it comes to the world around us. But being a part of this emerging generation that is told too often that “we are going to dirt”, the leadership program had taught me that we are becoming a generation of open-mindedness and well educated global leaders. Today’s youth and I aren’t going to the dirt as we are told because we will sprout from the earth, feeding off of education and thriving off of education. Every flower starts from dirt and ironically enough, the program had ended on a dirt filled note. I became a metaphor for a growing flower, in which I will continue to uphold through my journey as a budding leader.