Students Organize International Conference

Rachel Breitweser ’03

Novell Goodman ’20, Norissa Goodman ’20, Siya Kumar ’20 and Celia Valenzuela ’21 wanted to do something to show that Punahou cares about the environment and is part of Hawai‘i’s environmental scene. Instead of doing something on a small scale, they thought big and organized a three-day Global Issues Network (GIN) conference that addressed social and environmental issues.

The GIN conference, which took place March 1 – 3, is an international platform for students to hold their own conferences. More than 125 students from schools across the Islands, as well as Indonesia, convened at Punahou. Previous conference hosts include Le Jardin Academy and ‘Iolani School.

The theme was “reverse the cycle.” Participants were asked to look into their day-to-day actions, identify environmentally destructive cycles and discuss opportunities for change. They engaged in service learning and heard from 20 different speakers, including Fernanda Balata, leader of the Blue New Deal, an initiative concerned with economic and environmental issues related to the UK coast, and Paul Lecomte, project manager for “The Longest Swim,” a transpacific swimming expedition.

As a result of the conference, students formed a network for future collaboration and were also empowered to help change their schools’ curriculum to include addressing climate change, political unrest, poverty and other crucial topics.

Hosting the conference was no small feat. The four girls were responsible for everything from securing speakers and creating a website to deciding what food would be served and organizing transportation. Chandra Hanlin ’84 Peters, administrative coordinator of the Chapel and Luke Center for Public Service, also assisted in facilitating the conference.

“We had to create the dream of what we wanted students to leave with,” Norissa said.

The end of the conference left the team feeling emotional. “We were laughing and crying while cleaning up,” Norissa said. “This was such a big part of our life. We put our blood and tears into it, and having it happen was unbelievable.”

The GIN Conference at Punahou was supported in part by the Sidney Stern Memorial Trust and the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools.

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