By Kiana Dulan | Staff Writer
[Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Lisa Yamamoto as Lacie Yamamoto. We apologize for the error.]
Transitioning to college can be a difficult journey whether you’re coming straight from high school or deciding to attend after many years of working a full-time job, but Kapiʻolani Community College has the Kuilei Outreach Program, which assists students in the transition process. Behind this program are Sheldon Tawata, the Kuilei Outreach Program Coordinator, and Alfie Gonzales, the Kuilei Outreach Program Counselor, who not only run this outreach program but also host a podcast called Kuilei Courageous Conversations, which can be found on iTunes, iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, and more.
This podcast started just over a year ago, on Sept. 18, 2019, with the “Introduction of the Kuilei Courageous Conversation with Alfie and Sheldon.” Since then, they’ve discussed topics from financing college to KapCC’s dual credit program to even heavier topics such as mental health during this pandemic.
“It was neat how there were so many topics you can explore in this realm of podcasts, or what I see as online interviews,” Tawata said. “And then there was always this conversation about, ‘How can we get Kapiʻolani on the map?’ In the years that I’ve been working at KCC, community colleges are always under the shadows of these larger institutions … viewed as a second option.”
Noticing a resurface in podcasts two years ago, Tawata saw an opportunity, a chance for upcoming students to see KapCC as a viable choice for college. Tawata already had prior podcasting experience around 13 to 14 years ago, when he and his friend tried to do a podcast on parenting called “Grab the Family” where they talked about what it was like to be parents. However, they ditched this project because of the inability to store podcast episodes efficiently.
With microphones lying around from this past experience and other endeavors, Tawata messaged Gonzales about his “crazy” podcast idea for KapCC.
“The whole intent was interviewing people on our campus and have them share from their heart, what they do at the campus, why they work at the campus, and general feelings about serving our students,” Tawata said.
Equipped with a computer, recording software, and an idea to put KapCC on the map, Tawata and Gonzales encountered a slight problem.
“We need a title,” Tawata said. “How can we morph KCC into the title of our podcast?”
Gonzales brought his couch from home and suggested titles such as “Kapiʻolani Couch Confessionals” or “Couch Conversations.”
“Through my Higher Ed experience, we always talk about having those ʻuncomfortable conversations,’” Gonzales said. “The phrase and term is called ‘courageous conversations.’ [Kuilei] Courageous Conversations!”
From then on, Gonzales and Tawata have uploaded a total of 22 episodes with 913 all-time downloads, most of the listeners being in Honolulu and some on the American continent.
When the pandemic hit and local restrictions caused faculty and staff to transition to online avenues of communicating, Gonzales and Tawata decided to do an interview on KapCC’s Great Lawn with Marketing Director Lisa Yamamoto. On June 25, 2020, they recorded live what it was like on an empty campus.
“That was my first time on campus for a while,” Gonzales said. “There were a lot of feelings and emotions kicking in during that particular podcast.”
Handling these reactions and recording a podcast at the same time may prove daunting for some people, but Gonzales provides words of encouragement for interviewees to ease up during the interview.
“We always tell people that we’re interviewing, ‘Just have an honest, talk-story conversation,” Gonzales said. “We’ll filter things out, we’ll screen things out and whatnot, but we want it to be really unique and kind of raw with what we’re trying to convey. All these emotions. All these thoughts. We just want to hear a real sincerity about it.”
“Once they become who they are, that is when we press record, that’s where the conversation becomes very personal. Nothing is scripted. That’s what I love about it,” Tawata said. “Whatever they’re sharing is coming from a very good place.”
This podcast is open to different subjects and any KCC faculty and staff or students who would want to be interviewed. “Kuilei Courageous Conversations” can be found anywhere you listen to podcasts such as iTunes, iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, and more. For more questions about the Kuilei Outreach Program, contact Sheldon Tawata at firstname.lastname@example.org or Alfie Gonzales at email@example.com, and follow them on Instagram @kapcc_kuilei.