International employers from New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, Samoa, and American Samoa shared they accepted the invitation to attend the Asia-Pacific Career Conference to continue the mission of IWORK and create opportunities for Pacific Islander and Asian students to succeed.
Many of the employers were BYU–Hawaii alumni, and they shared how they believe students from BYUH are impressive and well-rounded in the way they manage work, school, and social life.
“They are definitely [well-prepared]. Some of them are already supervising 20-to-30 people at work,” shared Sharon Prasad, a representative from Punja & Sons Ltd in Fiji. She said students balance their lives so well adding, “I don’t know how they get the energy to do it.”
Kenneth Kuaea, vice president from Klaod Solutions in American Samoa, described how, “There’s a wholesomeness about the students here. I value that.”
Kuaea graduated from BYU in Provo, and his wife attended BYUH. He wanted to come to BYUH to recruit because of the caliber of students and the values they share, he said.
Merehani Parker, representing Tahiti Travel from Tahiti, noted, “BYUH students stand out to the world...I have seen enough mediocre people. We need people who stand out.”
Pursuing the mission of IWORK
According to the BYUH website, “The IWORK (International Work Opportunity Return-ability Kuleana) program is to assist students from the Pacific Rim (South Pacific & East Asia) in obtaining a quality education at BYUH and help students become self-reliant.”
The site adds the goal of the IWORK program is to provide necessary financial assistance to worthy members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Dennis Williams, head of Business Solutions in Samoa, said he came to support the mission of IWORK. He said he was an IWORK student when he attended BYUH, commenting, “I believe attending here gave me the opportunity to be successful...
“There’s a focus here on Pacific Islanders at this college, and we operate in the Caribbean, South America, and the Pacific Islands. My goal here is to look at opportunities for the Pacific Islanders who are here.”
He shared it wasn’t hard to get a job after graduation because he and his wife took the challenge to return home.
“We took on the David O. McKay promise that we will be blessed when we return home. I can say we have been blessed,” said Williams.
Kuaea said, “We give students the opportunity for those who want to come to American Samoa... Our goal is [to] get the IWORK students from Samoa to come back to work.”
Faleni Leauanae, representing Utah-based Workfront, said he could give back and share his story about being the first person in his family to go to college with students in hopes it will motivate them to move forward in their careers.
He said, “I believe it was proposed for me to come to [APCC] because of my story. I look at a lot of the students who are Polynesian and come from different backgrounds. They are first-generation college students. I’m a first-generation college student.
“When I came here, I was thinking about how I can help these students move faster than I did. I felt I could help in the area of mentoring students. I have gone through the experience of understanding what it took to go to school and coming from a background of low income.”
Mare Haimona-Riki graduated from BYUH last year and is now a video journalist at Maori Television in New Zealand. He said, “As alumni, I wanted to be involved...I saw students I was in classes with, and they shared how it was inspiring that I was here [now].”
He shared how throughout his life, he was preparing to be a journalist. There are photos of him using a hose as a microphone, and while at school, he was shooting videos for people.
He shared a quote by motivational speaker Les Brown, “It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than have an opportunity and not be prepared.” Haimona-Riki counseled students to prepare continuously, and “as soon as you know what you want to do, you can start.”