Features | The Green Leaf Kupu Hawaii readies youth for local green-sector jobs Oct. 12, 2015 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. In the lobby of Kupu Hawaii, the nonprofit in Kakaako that trains youth for the green jobs sector of Hawaii, there is a quote from Dr. Seuss’ "The Lorax" on the wall. It says, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not." Empowering youth, Hawaii’s future, to serve their communities is at the heart of Kupu Hawaii’s mission. Founded in 2007, the group is named after the native kupukupu fern and means "to sprout, grow or germinate." It is the first plant to grow back after a lava flow. Through Kupu’s many programs, young adolescents gain the skills they need to work in the emerging green jobs sector, whether it’s in the field of conservation or renewable energy. It’s about empowering youth, said Kupu Hawaii’s CEO John Leong, and giving them the tools to make an impact. Just as important, he said, it’s about nurturing leaders with the right heart — a passion for a more sustainable future as well as a desire to give back to the community. "If we don’t prepare our next generation of kids to get involved, they’re going to be left behind," said Leong. "We want to give our youth the capacity to move forward." Kupu’s Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps gives students ages 17 to 20 the opportunity to work outdoors with environmental agencies across Hawaii during the summer and year-round while possibly earning college credit. In April nearly 30 interns spent a week helping to plant 20,000 koa seedlings at a natural reserve on the slopes of Haleakala on Maui for Arbor Day. TO PARTICIPATE From 8 a.m. to noon Oct. 24, Kupu is celebrating "Make a Difference Day" by restoring Castle High School’s imu pit, clearing out the hydroponic house and constructing planter boxes. Complimentary lunch to follow. Sign up at kupuhawaii.org/laukupu. Kupu’s RISE program offers college students paid internships with various private and public agencies focused on food waste reduction, renewable energy and sustainable schools. Those internships can provide valuable experience and mentorship that lead to jobs when they graduate. With E2U, an environmental education program, participants work with public schools to launch a project focused on sustainability or start an after-school Eco Club. Last but not least, CommunityU helps at-risk youth, ages 16 to 24, with life skills and green jobs training while helping them to get a high school diploma. These youth get involved in projects that restore fishponds. In November, Eseluqupi Plasito, son of the late navigator Mau Piailug, mentored students as they carved a traditional, single-hulled canoe out of a large, invasive albizia tree at Kewalo Basin, with help from more than 700 volunteers. Kupu launched the canoe into the water at the start of the year as part of a celebration, and plans to keep it for educational uses. Kupu is planning to build a $5 million Green Job Training Center at the "net shed," a dilapidated building originally used by aku fishermen to hang and repair their nets near Point Panic at Kewalo. The group envisions it as a gathering space with classrooms and conference rooms in a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified building. Plans include a commercial kitchen and food truck that will feature locally sourced produce and be staffed by youth from the CommunityU program. Kakaako is undergoing a dramatic change in its skyline and population as construction gets underway. There, in the midst of all the high-rise condos, would be a place to nurture the next generation of stewards for our islands. To learn more about Kupu’s programs, visit kupuhawaii.org. Nina Wu writes about environmental issues. Reach her at 529-4892 or email@example.com. Previous Story KHON began 63 years ago under the call letters KONA Next Story Happy 22nd, Brad and Sachi!