Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders Pairs Mentors with Hawai‘i’s Youth

Over 500 students across the Islands are enrolled in a variety of CTL programs.
05 22 Heroes 1800x1200 Fob Mentoring
CTL staff member Lahela Manning mentors students. | Photo: courtesy of Center for Tomorrow's Leaders

When Ai Tanaka received an email her employer about mentoring high school students through the Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders, she immediately signed up, but with one request: to be matched with someone from O‘ahu’s West Side.

Tanaka, a senior consultant with HMSA’s Organizational Development and Effectiveness Department, volunteers in the Wai‘anae community and serves on a board there. She sees mentoring as a way to pay it forward.

As part of CTL’s Unfold program, she was paired with Janelle Arca from Wai‘anae High School and Hollie Rader from Waipahu High. Both students are now attending UH Mānoa.

Tanaka met virtually with each student one-on-one for 30 minutes every week during the summer – an experience that she says made her a better professional, more authentic and more compassionate.

“You go into a mentorship program thinking that you’re giving something to someone but it’s really give and take. It’s such a gift. It’s been so fulfilling,” Tanaka says.


“Here for You”

Unfold is designed to provide a bridge of support for high school seniors during the transition from graduation to whatever’s next, whether that be college, a job or a trade. Unfold began in 2019 as an in-person program but was held virtually over the last two years because of the pandemic – a model that CTL’s staff hopes to continue.

“Right now, we’re keeping the program virtual with the hope that we can do some in-person meetups. I think it’s nice because then people can mentor on our different islands, from different communities,” says Katie Chang, executive director of the Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders.

Tanaka says she’s grateful for the virtual meetings as they allowed her to continue mentoring while she was on the mainland caring for her mother. “Even though I stopped working, I still talked with Hollie. It was amazing. It was one thing that kept me centered.”

Prospective mentors and mentees statewide can participate in Unfold; enroll at Pairs are matched according to field or area of interest, shared experience and other factors, and mentors get a weekly guide to help facilitate meaningful conversations with their mentees.

“The theme of ‘Here for Hope, Here for Strength, Here for You’ was really focused on helping young people believe in their potential – to be able to see themselves in the future,” Chang says.

Sheena Choy, CTL’s fellows program and marketing coordinator, adds, “Our real hope was that the personal relationships would develop so much so that the mentors could be there for anything.”


Mentoring Hawaiʻi’s Youth

CTL offers a variety of mentorship and leadership development opportunities for Hawai‘i’s youth.

Over 500 students are enrolled in CTL programs on Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Lāna‘i, Maui and Hawai‘i Island:

  • Ambassadors is a leadership development course for students in grades 10 to 12.
  • Vanguard continues leadership development for CTL alumni ages 18-25 during college and early careers.
  • Emerge is a one-day leadership conference for high schoolers.
  • Raise Your Hand is a student-written column in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Choy says mentorship is crucial to keeping local youths in Hawai‘i. “It’s really important that our young people can stay here and imagine a future for themselves here,” she says.

Tanaka encourages others to volunteer. “I wish everyone could mentor because you don’t realize going into it what a privilege it is” to know young people and to have a direct impact on their development as leaders, she says.

To learn more about the Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders, visit


Are you willing to talk to a reporter about how and why you mentor? Let us know at



Categories: Mentorship