Wo International Center’s Student Global Leadership Institute (SGLI) was held online for the first time this summer with over 60 students participating from 13 international schools and 5 U.S. schools, which included students from Hawai‘i, New York, Senegal, Japan, India, the UK and more.
The yearlong annual program, which launched at Punahou in 2010, brings students together from a diverse range of backgrounds with the purpose of tackling some of the world’s toughest challenges and creating positive change. Typically, students convene on Punahou’s campus for a two-week summer summit, but last year the gathering was canceled due to the pandemic.
This year, the summit was transitioned online and ran in June and July for five weeks, with synchronous meetings in the final week. Planning for the virtual program began in October with special accommodations made so that Chinese students, who don’t have access to YouTube or Google, could participate.
This year’s topic focused on health and its many aspects: nutrition, mental health, access to health care and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. Students met virtually to hear from such guest speakers as Dr. William F. Haning III ’67 an addiction expert with UH Mānoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine, emergency medicine and disaster response physician Dr. Darragh O’Carroll ’03 and Allen Murabayashi ’90, co-founder of PhotoShelter and SGLI organizer, and discussed such questions as how is your country doing with COVID and what are ways you can manage your mental health?
“Our core goal for this year was to get students and teachers to connect, collaborate and problem solve together,” said Paula Arias, the director of strategic programs at Wo International Center. “We set up story circles, four corners activities and coffee talks where participants could share about their experiences in their home countries and different social issues. The group discussions were the highlight for many students as they don’t usually get to discuss such topics in their own communities. It’s one thing to read about what’s happening in other countries, and another thing to hear it from a person who is living it daily.”
Students also worked on proposals for a longer-term project to affect social change in their home cities. SGLI alumni gave students advice on how to develop their projects. Mental health was a big focus with students proposing plans to incorporate more physical movement and snack breaks into their school schedules. Some students advocated for getting rid of plastics at their schools. “I can’t wait to see what they do in their communities,” said Arias.
Next year, Arias is hoping to continue the online online component of SGLI, perhaps having students meet and interact remotely before the in-person sessions, if health and safety precautions allow for it. She also wants to get more students involved on a local level. “I hope we can continue to grow this program and have more local schools play a part,” she said.
Many thanks to SGLI planning committee members Paula Arias, Director of Strategic Programs; Wendi Kamiya, Cooke Library Learning Commons Department Chair; Dan Gaudiano, Academy Science Department Chair; Allen Murabayashi ’90, Board Member, Wo International Center; and Lorelei Saito, Junior School Social Studies. Mahalo to the Luke Family, who generously supports SGLI.