Alexis with her mentor, Scott, at her graduation.

Alexis Cortes is a recent graduate of Hawai‘i Pacific University’s (HPU) Public Health bachelor’s program and has been with HIPHI’s internship program since the beginning of the 2019 legislative session. She met HIPHI’s Statewide Youth Coordinator, Scott Stensrud, at a gathering at HPU and discussed the possibility of learning about outreach and advocacy. Over the 2019 legislative session, this dynamic duo trained and mentored Hawai‘i Youth Council members from across the state and educated the public about the importance of supporting legislation that would ban candy-flavored tobacco products.

Alexis was looking for a challenge: to learn to strategically relay public health messages to the public through earned media. Through her internship, that challenge was met as Alexis appeared in a number of local television and newspaper interviews, gave speeches at rallies, and built relationships with people in the community. As a result of her internship experience at HIPHI, she discovered her passion for working in the community, advocating for legislation, and participating in opportunities to improve the health of her peers.

Alexis is optimistic and idealistic, to be expected of early career public health professionals. She is also grounded and insightful,  recognizing that policy change takes time and often is measured in baby steps. Throughout HIPHI internships, mentors share wisdom and offer challenges (generally through special projects) to make the experience more meaningful.

Alexis being interviewed about ending the sale of flavored tobacco.

What makes any mentor/intern relationship work so well is a good working rapport and open candidness. When Scott offered constructive criticism, Alexis doesn’t take it personally, accepted her mentor’s words as an opportunity for growth and change. Scott praised Alexis’ ability to be flexible and navigate through the frenzied and unpredictable environment of the legislature, often with short notice to attend hearings and submit testimony.

Everyone at HIPHI is grateful for Alexis’ passion, dedication, and hard work.