Where are they now? – Catching up with 2011 Corpsmember of the Year Mari Takemoto-Chock
Submitted by Hannah Traverse on Fri, 11/02/2012 - 12:17
Mari Takemoto-Chock is certainly not one to just sit around. In August 2011, almost immediately after finishing her AmeriCorps VISTA term with KUPU – the organization that runs the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps – Mari flew to New York for her first semester as a graduate student at NYU. She received her master’s degree in the spring of 2013.
Mari’s experiences at KUPU are part of what inspired her to study gender and race in graduate school. During her year with KUPU, Mari was instrumental in creating an Urban Corps to provide job training and life skills education for Honolulu’s under-resourced youth. Mari was struck by how a large proportion of the Corpsmembers at KUPU were Native Hawaiian. What did it mean that they all came from a certain minority group? Mari says her graduate studies have helped her look with a critical lens at questions about race and inequality. After Mari graduates in May 2013, she says she will probably attend law school. She is not entirely sure what she wants to do with a law degree, but she hopes to one day work for an organization like the Legal Aid Society. She says there's also a possibility she will return to Capitol Hill; between college and her AmeriCorps term, Mari worked on energy, environmental, and education issues as part of the legislative staff for a member of the Hawaii delegation. Though Mari is still very much interested in environmental issues, she says her main interest, and what will probably shape her future career, are the issues surrounding at-risk youth.
Looking back on her time at KUPU, Mari says her experiences not only inspired her studies in graduate school. She says that helping build the Urban Corps provided excellent exposure to how programs are developed, implemented, and maintained.
“I got a really good, broad overview …from funding to developing to implementing and devising policy,” said Mari. “And then also the day-to-day of managing behavior and discipline. I think the thing I took away the most was that broad overview.”
Mari says her Corps experience also helped her think in a whole new way. She feels that if she had not joined the Corps, she would probably still be on Capitol Hill thinking about issues from a political perspective.
Mari maintains close contact with people at KUPU. She goes to the Corps to visit her former coworkers whenever she gets a chance. She also frequently checks the Corps’ Facebook and Twitter pages to stay posted on what kinds of projects they’re working on.
To youth considering joining a Service or Conservation Corps, Mari says:
“I think it’s a really good opportunity for self-reflection and self-development. So I would say to be really open to that. I think just being out in nature is a good opportunity – for some reason it inspires a lot of self-reflection. Not many people get the chance to spend that much time out in nature. So I would say to really take advantage of that.”