Vote! UH Hilo political science students release PSA video about the importance of voting

Making an appearance on the video along with a multitude of students are UH Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin, and County of Hawai‘i Mayor Mitch Roth and Prosecuting Attorney Kelden Waltjen, all encouraging the younger generation to take their civic responsibility seriously and VOTE!

By Susan Enright

A public service announcement video produced by two political science majors at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo was released today. The production is supported by a competitive grant the students received from a national organization to produce a public service announcement encouraging citizens to vote.

Leoshina Kariha pictured
Leoshina Kariha
Riana Jicha pictured
Riana Jicha

Riana Jicha and Leoshina Kariha, members of the UH Hilo Iota Iota Chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, a national political science honor society, applied for and secured a Civic Engagement Grant from the organization meant to fund a public service announcement on voter registration.

The budding political scientists’ PSA video includes UH Hilo students, Chancellor Bonnie Irwin, and County of Hawai‘i Mayor Mitch Roth and Prosecuting Attorney Kelden Waltjen, who all share their reasons to vote.

“I exercise my right to vote to honor the women who fought so hard in the last century to give me that right,” says Chancellor Irwin in the video.

Su- Mi Lee pictured
Su-Mi Lee
Bonnie Irwin pictured
Bonnie Irwin

Su-Mi Lee, an associate professor of international relations and chair of the UH Hilo Department of Political Science, is overseeing the students’ work.

“Through this project, we hope to give UH Hilo students an opportunity to think about the importance of voting and their participation in the political process,” says Lee in an email.

Lee says one goal of all colleges and universities is to help students become responsible citizens, and that this project does just that.

“Voting is an essential part of democracy,” she says. “It sustains democracy by empowering people, it gives them voice, holds those in power accountable, and ensures the country works for them. Civic duties such as voting are learned behaviors and it should be learned as early as possible.”

Lee says participation in the video of respected members in the community such as Mayor Roth, Prosecuting Attorney Waltjen and university officials, signifies the importance of encouraging the young generation to take their civic responsibility “to the core.”

A future in public service

The producers of the video, both Jicha and Kariha, plan on dedicating their lives to public service when they start their careers.

Jicha, a transfer student from Hawai‘i Community College (Associate in Arts in Liberal Arts, 2021), is a senior at UH Hilo double majoring in political science and administration of justice. She is from O‘ahu and moved to Hawai‘i Island five years ago.

She was homeschooled by her mother and graduated high school at age 16. After graduating from UH Hilo, she plans on entering a master’s program at Hawai‘i Pacific University for a degree in public administration.

“I want to dedicate my education to working in the public sector and serving my local community,” she says.

Kariha is a junior at UH Hilo majoring in political science with a minor in geography and a certificate in international politics. She grew up in Papua New Guinea.

“As a Papua New Guinean, I am fortunate to be given the opportunity to study in Hawai‘i under an international exchange program called the United States South Pacific Scholarship Program funded by the East West Center and United States Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs,” she says.

“I am very appreciative to have the experience of completing my undergraduate studies at UH Hilo, where there is diversity of cultural backgrounds and we have the opportunity to make connections with people from around the world right on our campus grounds every day.”

Kariha says she decided to take up political science as a major because she is passionate about helping in sustainable development and reconstructing systems to meet the needs of the grassroots, who are often neglected.

“What I value most about political science is that it influences so many aspects of life,” she says. “No matter how many times we try to ignore political science, it is the doorway of understanding how other systems in the world run. Our land, resources, and people are all managed and governed by some sort of leadership.”

She hopes to help promote youth development and assist in bringing basic literacy and numeracy to children in the villages and rural areas of Papua New Guinea.

By Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories.

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