Bringing The Student Leadership Challenge to Hawaiian Youth

2/10/2014 12:00 AM ,

“A‘ohe Pau Ka ‘Ike I Ka Halau Ho‘okahi” ("All knowledge is not taught in the same school.") —Mary Kawena Pukui, scholar, dancer, composer, and educator

It is said, out of adversity, strength is born—a concept clearly illustrated through the life of Mason Chock. As a youth, he attended the Kamehameha Schools, college-preparatory boarding schools on the Hawaiian island of Oahu that focus on educating Native Hawaiian children on Hawaiian culture and language, and developing industrious young men and women for the modern world. Most importantly, they also instilled in Chock the importance of being of service to others.

After earning his undergraduate degree from the University of Hawai‘i in Business Administration, Chock returned to his home island of Kaua‘i thinking he would pursue a career in the corporate world. But the desire to be of service to others took him down a different path. Instead he became a firefighter, a position Chock says “really ignited the part of me that wanted to serve.” It was a career he relished and intended to last a lifetime. In his spare time, he began to work as a facilitator with Leadership Kaua‘i, a program that cultivated the same passion for leading and being integral in one’s community as his work serving through the fire department. Working mostly with youth, Chock established a fishpond project, taught team building through canoe trips, and led hikes to sites that educated participants not only about their Hawaiian ancestors, but shed insight into their own lives. Another aspect of the program, outdoor experiential training via a ropes course, was also right up Chock’s alley. “As a firefighter, I was already jumping out of helicopters, why not trees?” he says.

As it turned out, a helicopter would change the course of his life. Now married with two young sons, Chock was on a search and rescue mission to save an injured hiker on the Napali Coast when the helicopter went into distress. As the rotorcraft plummeted into the mountainside, thoughts of his two young sons raced through Chock’s mind. The helicopter crashed into trees, ferns and mud. Adrenalin pumping, Chock extinguished a fire that had broken out on the crash site. It wasn’t until he’d been transported to the hospital that he realized something was terribly wrong. His back was broken and several discs ruptured. “I didn’t walk for months after the accident,” says Chock. “The crash was a catalyst that made me question who I was and how I was living my life.”

The road to recovery wasn’t easy, either physically or emotionally. As someone who had clearly mapped out his future only to have its course put in question, he was besieged by bitterness. “It was one of the first big lessons in my life,” says Chock. “There was a spiritual awakening that needed to occur. And when it happened as a result of the accident I began to see that the path I’d set out for myself wasn’t the ultimate destination. Instead, it was the activity I’d previously considered ‘backyard fun’—my work with Leadership Kaua‘i.”

Chock’s work with the Leadership Kaua‘i began to take on a whole new scope. He realized the capacity the organization had to transform people’s lives—by building self-identity, self-esteem, and confidence in others—and a few years later became its executive director.

Harvesting kalo at the Waipa Foundation with Youth Leaders

Harvesting kalo at the Waipa Foundation with Youth Leaders

As Chock was transforming as a person, so was the program. It began building on the intention of diversity and focusing on the importance of preserving the place, people, and lifestyle of Hawai‘i. But it was The Leadership Challenge that truly brought to life Leadership Kaua‘i’s mission to ensure a source of qualified and committed leaders on Kaua‘i. “After a few years of experimenting and navigating through multiple leadership development tools, theories and curriculum, The Leadership Challenge began to emerge as our source,” Chock says. “It’s not only backed by 30 years of research in leadership behaviors, it also helps leaders shift their mindset from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence. And best of all, it aligns well with our traditional Hawaiian values.”

More recently, Chock took another leap of faith, leaving his position at Leadership Kaua‘i to devote himself to achieving a new goal as a consultant: to bring the concept of Leadership Kaua‘i to every community, and to develop an understanding and belief system people can invest in. “I realized that if The Leadership Challenge philosophy, “leadership is everyone’s business,” is true, then I needed to reach more people than the 20 adults and 20 youth annually Leadership Kaua‘i was engaging. If our underlying goal was to affect socio-economic change on Kaua‘i, we would need to expand our outreach.”

Today, Chock is a Certified Facilitator of The Student Leadership Challenge and a Master Facilitator of The Leadership Challenge, and The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership model serves as the foundation for all outreach programs he provides through his new company, Kupu A‘e. He has expanded services into each of the high schools, college, businesses, and government entities and within the next three years hopes to increase outreach from 20 high school students to over 3,000. “With our growing leaders sharing the same language of leadership and leadership behaviors,” Chock add, “imagine how our small island will one day serve as a prime example of leading positive growth.”

When asked what motivates him to get up and go to work every day, Chock replied, “The work itself. I love seeing light bulbs click and people commit to what is most important to them and to others. I love seeing trusting relationships develop before my eyes”.

E Ala e, youth leaders welcoming the sun

E Ala e, youth leaders welcoming the sun

“I do what I do because it defines who I am,” he continued. “My life experiences have helped me gain clarity around who I am and what my values are, and those values are reflected in our company values and philosophy: To empower and enrich others, now, not later—to seize the day and live in the present, to live life to the fullest with love, and to inspire with integrity and insight, to grow. To heal souls, body, mind and spirit, and to value truth, honesty and service.”

Father and son gathering trip
Mason Chock
is president of Kaua‘i Team Challenge, Inc. which has brought The Leadership Challenge® into Kaua‘i high schools, Kaua‘i Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and The Fatherhood Program, among many other organizations. As a facilitator of The Leadership Challenge, a personal coach, consultant, and keynote speaker, he delivers customized leadership corporate trainings covering topics such as creating a positive work culture, coaching young people for success, conflict resolution, values to action, goal-setting vision strategies, organizational health, and building up your team’s capacity. He can be reached at kupuae.com or at 800-651-7013.

Also: Watch a video of Mason relating the story of a young girl whose life was turned around by learning The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. »

Category: Success Stories

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