This Earth Day we are recognizing several outstanding youth leaders and student volunteers making a positive impact across Hawai‘i. Learn more about their stories, what inspires them, and the future they want to see for Hawai‘i and the world.

These stories were compiled from survey responses conducted by our team for youth leadership on the Aloha+ Challenge. The text below was written by Ariana Caruso and Stephanie Albana; two youth leaders in sustainability with the Hawaiʻi Green Growth team.

 “This is Hawaiʻi’s chance to become stronger and more resilient. Together, as one big family, we can create local, community-based solutions.”

– Dyson Chee

Project O.C.E.A.N Hawaiʻi Founder

At 16 years old, Dyson Chee started the Straw Challenge, which challenged Hawai‘i residents to stop using single-use plastic straws. He has amassed thousands of signatures and has gathered support from numerous local organizations that fight for environmental sustainability. Now a high school senior, Dyson serves as the Director of Advocacy for the Hawaii Youth Climate Coalition (HYCC), where he rallies other like-minded students to pass state bills that better Hawai‘i’s environment. “I volunteer with HYCC because I strongly believe that it is critical for the youth of Hawai‘i to be a part of the solution to beating climate change.” Dyson explains.

At a time when youth voices are more important than ever, Dyson teaches other students how to get involved in the legislative process, meet with legislators, and engage their local community in civics. He maintains his vision in spite of the coronavirus pandemic. “Although COVID-19 has given us a punch to the gut, this is Hawaiʻi’s chance to become stronger and more resilient.”

The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare the fragility of Hawai‘i’s economy. “Whether it’s the tourists that generate our money or the cargo ships that bring in our supplies, we saw that they were heavily impacted by the pandemic,” Dyson shared. One of the aims of the Aloha+ Challenge is to increase economic opportunities and support an entrepreneurial ecosystem that strengthens Hawai‘i’s natural environment, culture and community. Although COVID-19 currently impacts this goal, Dyson believes that “when times get tough, we get tougher.”

That is the exact aim of Virtual Volunteer Week Hawaiʻi. An initiative focused on volunteer action and community engagement to counter the COVID-19 crisis, Volunteer Week calls on all of Hawai‘i’s residents to lend their time through individual action to proactively address risks and ensure sustainability across all sectors of society.

As a final thought, Dyson urges his community to take up individual and systematic changes to help Hawai‘i’s economy through the massive health crisis. Whether that be by using reusable utensils or increasing the availability of local products, he knows that “together, as one big family, [Hawai‘i] can create local, community-based solutions.”

To learn more about Virtual Volunteer Week Hawai’i and get involved, visit

“I want Hawaiʻi to emerge from this crisis with a new perspective. How can we extend our definition of the ‘spirit of aloha’?”

– Kiana Dulan

Leeward Community College

A current student of Leeward Community College, Kiana Dulan, volunteers her time as an intern for the Mālama Loko Ea Foundation. Kiana is involved with this cause because she believes Hawaiʻi must utilize more local food sources to increase the security of Hawaiʻi’s food system.

“If you haven’t noticed, we are on a tiny island. We depend on shipments of food and supplies coming in from the outside. It’s stressful knowing that if all shipments were to cease, we won’t be able to supply food for everyone on the island,” Kiana explains.  

In Hawai’i, there is between a five to seven-day supply of food at any given time, with an estimated 90% of total food imported. Overfishing and commercial bycatch also harm the environment, exhausting natural resources and disrupting the ecological balance of ocean ecosystems.

As an intern, Kiana assists in maintaining, restoring and educating people about the importance of the ancient Hawaiian Loko Ea Fishpond. This rich cultural and natural resource provides knowledge of land stewardship and traditional Hawaiian practices to community members, while also increasing local food options. “Thankfully, there are organizations providing resources for the local community, and Loko Ea supplies another avenue for those who crave fish,” says Kiana.

The Aloha+ Challenge aims to double local food production by 2030. Achieving this goal will support benefits beyond food security, including: food and agriculture-related jobs and business, lowered costs and prices of local food, increased environmental conservation, and restoration of traditional Hawai‘i land and seascapes.

Virtual Volunteer Week Hawaiʻi starts April 19th to April 25th, with the Aloha+ Challenge as a thematic focus for volunteer action. Through the Aloha+ Challenge, volunteers’ individual action will collectively help Hawaiʻi to increase sustainability across sectors.

When asked about her contributions to the local community and the importance for others to volunteer, Kiana suggests:

I’m just doing my part to push Hawai‘i in a more sustainable direction. It doesn’t have to specifically be food sustainability for you! Whether it may be through beach clean-ups, invasive species removal in the Koʻolaus, or legislative action, we can all work towards the betterment of Hawaiʻi nei.”

With Hawaiʻi alongside the rest of the world in facing unprecedented challenges from COVID-19, coming together to protect and care for our communities is critical to grow stronger and remain resilient against disruptions both now and in the future.

Visualizing a post-COVID-19 Hawaiʻi, Kiana leaves us with this final thought:

I want Hawaiʻi to emerge from this crisis with a new perspective. Re-evaluate what the ‘spirit of aloha’ means. After the quarantine, we’ll go back to hugs and such, but how can we extend our definition of the ‘spirit of aloha?”

To learn more about Virtual Volunteer Week Hawai’i and get involved, visit