(Left to Right: Rachel James, Elijah Lee, Emily Truong, Anuhea Breedan, Jordan Namba, and Ross Okinaga)

Emily Truong: 

2019 Graduate of Sacred Hearts Academy, Honolulu

Incoming Freshman at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Majoring in Computer Science

Emily, tell us a little about your project.

Our project, Youth for Youth, is a service initiative created by Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders High School Fellows with a vision of empowering and equipping young adults who feel controlled by circumstances. Currently, we are partnering with the nonprofit, Residential Youth Services and Empowerment (RYSE) Hawaii which provides a safe, temporary living space for the 18-24 year old homeless demographic. Youth for Youth was able to work in tandem with RYSE by offering our support through holding different workshops and creating a centralized system so that other youth outreach organizations would better be able to offer their services in a centralized area. This website should be easily accessible and provides a direct route from those in need to community foundations and nonprofits who have the resources to help them. We also hosted a paint pa’ina event in which we gathered over 20 RYSE residents and community volunteers to help paint their new facility which offers additional space for interview and GED classes. We also plan to partner with Kapiolani Community College to teach the residents at RYSE basic cooking skills to prepare a simple three course meal made from easily accessible foods. As a whole, our project was able to introduce to our community that there is a need to support local youth outreach organizations like RYSE and continue to keep the conversation going to connect those who want to help with those who need it.

What inspired you to participate in this?

Our goal is to help homeless youth in our community gain skills and access to resources that will help them succeed in all aspects of life. This project was rooted in our desire to support the commonly overlooked and continually rising homeless youth population on Oahu reintegrate back into society. With many efforts from both the government and non-profit organizations, our group wanted to focus on homeless youth in particular because they have different needs we believe we can better cater to. As youth ourselves, our goal was to share personal skills we have to help them gain an edge in the competitive job market.

How did you integrate STEM into this service project?

My desire to initiate the digital aspect of this project was rooted from my own background with coding and computers. Personally, I really enjoy coding, cyber security, and creating digital art as a hobby and did not hesitate to take this opportunity for our group. I was inspired to take this job due to my background with technology and hopes of being able to use my hobby to make a difference in another person’s life. In the future, I would like to make this hobby into a career by studying computer science at Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo. Although I am still unsure of what route to go to within computer science, I would love to use whatever knowledge I have gained to give back to my community and make a difference.

What would you say to students who aren't sure if there is a place for them in STEM fields?

Do not be afraid. The world of STEM is vast and, quite frankly, intimidating. It is hard to enter a world that was and continues to be dominated by men, but know that girls belong in this world too. STEM has many different avenues people can travel down which ranges from studying how different parts of a machine interact in mechanical engineering understanding the movements of atoms and photons in quantum mechanics. Yes, I will admit that it can be both difficult and frustrating to understand, but do not give up. Look for another route to travel to or adapt to make yourself happier. There is so much to do and so much to discover, all you have to be is curious.