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A PATH forward: Reflections from a Healthy Eating + Active Living intern

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A few times a year Hawaiʻi Island Healthy Eating + Active Living (HIHEAL) gets the opportunity to work with university, college, and/or high school students on a project of the students’ choice. For this year’s fall semester HIHEAL welcomed María Hiel, a University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa senior majoring in Public Health and Spanish. As María’s internship comes to a close, she has offered us a reflection of her time working with HIHEAL and our partner, People for Active Transportation Hawaiʻi (PATH).

My name is María Hiel and I am a senior at UH Mānoa majoring in Public Health and Spanish. Since August, I have been interning at People for Active Transportation Hawaiʻi (PATH) through Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute’s Hawaiʻi Island Healthy Eating + Active Living (HIHEAL) internship program. My mentors are Jessica Thompson from PATH and Lisa DeSantis from HIHEAL. My objectives going into the internship were to: better understand the workings of non-profit organizations and how change is accomplished; to learn more about PATH and how the organization serves Hawaiʻi Island residents; and to gain perspective on multi-modal transportation and its importance and potential for positive impact on both small and large communities across Hawaiʻi. I have satisfied each of these under the mentorship of Jess and Lisa and am incredibly grateful for the time they took to connect me with a wide variety of people and show me so much despite the limitations of being virtual.

Over the course of my 100 hour internship I have completed three main projects. The first was to research, create, and deliver a report documenting recommendations for the HIBike Bikeshare program that promote equitable active transportation access, then deliver the report in a meeting with the Interim Mass Transit Administrator at Hawaiʻi County and the executives at HIBike’s subcontractor for operational support, Secure Bikeshare Hawaiʻi, LLC. The second project was to create a HIBike informational presentation to be presented to University of Hawaiʻi – Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College staff and students to introduce HIBike and engage the communities on both campuses in HIBike implementation. My third project was to collaborate with the Pedestrian and Bicycle Education Program Director, Paul Burke, to convert current in-person bicycle and pedestrian education and engagement classes to virtual-appropriate materials that can be utilized to teach students the same lessons via e-learning platforms.

Each of these projects allowed me to work with different people and explore the various projects PATH is currently taking on to make active transportation more accessible, safe, and comfortable for the residents of Hawaiʻi. I find PATH’s work to be of utmost importance not only for the people of Hawaiʻi and our communities but also for the betterment of our environment and health of the land. Active transportation needs to be equitably accessible to everyone so that people can be healthy and active and we can ensure every individual’s personal transportation is affordable, safe, and realistic to be used on a day-to-day basis.

If you are interested in interning with HIHEAL, our partners, or any of HIPHI’s programs, please fill out our application form or contact with questions. We hope to hear from you! For more information on HIHEAL please contact Lisa DeSantis at and/or Sally Ancheta at


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