A Conversation With… Rep. Troy Hashimoto

Troy Hashimoto was born and raised in Maui, HI, and grew up working on his family’s persimmon farm. He earned his bachelor’s degree and MBA from the University of Denver. He made his way back home to Hawaii and served as executive assistant to Maui County Council Chair Mike White for eight years. He also served as the chair of the Maui County Democratic Party for four years and served as a member of the Hawaii State Board of Education. Hashimoto is also a former member of the National Student Council Executive Board (2003–05). He currently serves as a Democratic member of the Hawaii House of Representatives, representing District 8.

Advise: Did you always know you wanted to pursue a life of public service through politics? What advice do you have for students who wish to pursue a similar path?

Hashimoto: Politics has always been of interest to me, but more importantly, what keeps me in politics is the ability to make a difference for my community. All throughout middle and high school, along with in college, I was always active in student council. Serving in government seemed like a natural fit with my past experiences. I encourage anyone who wants to serve to stay involved. Like student council, government is about building relationships and helping others. Being an active student leader is a great foundation for building all the necessary skills to eventually run for government office.

Advise: One of the biggest issues about which you are passionate is adequate funding and facilities for education. How can students advocate for these issues and rally support for their own schools?

Hashimoto: I believe students can have a tremendous impact on rallying support for their schools. Students must look at themselves as advocates but also have a project that makes sense and is specific to furthering the goals of their school. Many times, students may think that the only person they need to talk with is their principal, but there are many decision makers. Figure out your governance structure, as many times there are superintendents, school board members, and state legislators who make critical decisions. Take the time to meet with decision makers and explain your needs, and most importantly, keep revisiting the issue—once is usually not enough. It often takes time to push a larger project forward and partnering with underclassmen who can continue to carry the issue to the end over a few years is also very important.

Advise: What, in your view, is the toughest challenge students face today?

Hashimoto: The toughest challenge facing students, in my view, is the influence of social media. Growing up with this emerging technology, it keeps individuals well-connected, but at times makes it tremendously difficult to truly decipher what is fact or fiction. Practically anyone has a platform to share their views without [those views] being based in fact. I believe it has led to snap judgments on issues, rather than forcing individuals to learn the background of a matter. Critical thinking and really learning about an issue are still very important.

Advise: The current political climate is very divisive. How can students encourage open communication within their own campus and community and step outside of insular schools of thought to see other points of view?

Hashimoto: Having conversations and bringing people together through commonalities, rather than focusing on our differences, is important. Having conversations and interacting with all types of individuals is the key to building bridges. Once is not enough, and it must be done regularly. Student council is an important conduit to promote these very important opportunities—both inside and outside of our schools—in creative ways.

Advise: What are the best ways for students to serve locally and really make a difference?

Hashimoto: I am a firm believer that to make the biggest impact, you must enjoy what you are doing. My advice is to find an issue that is important to you, and then understand the needs throughout the community to see how to help. It is important to have a passion for what you do and, in turn, it will truly allow for the maximization of your time and efforts, both for you and the community.

Advise: What was your most impactful experience during your years on the National Student Council Executive Board?

Hashimoto: I have fond memories during my time with NASC [now NatStuCo], most notably interacting with a diverse range of students and advisers. It amazes me how many similarities we have throughout the nation, but it also exposed me to the number of resources at the fingertips of student leaders. There are so many creative ideas and innovative ways of doing things at schools. Attending NASC events always inspired me to do more and I also made lifelong friends along the way.

Advise: What are some small ways advisers and students alike can improve their school climate?

Hashimoto: Improving school climate is an ongoing effort and it needs to be looked at in small increments. It always amazes me how many people will engage if you simply ask. Many times, we forget that to get engagement, student leaders must be the ones to first engage others. It is never easy, but the best results only come from hard work and exciting others through your own enthusiasm.

Advise: Was there a particular teacher or adviser who influenced or inspired you?

Hashimoto: I had great mentors throughout the years, but I do credit my high school student activities coordinator, Trisha Grimley, who always supported me despite having many crazy endeavors, especially at the state and national level. Longtime Hawaii State Student Activities Coordinator Lana Mito was also a true servant leader who guided me during my time on the NASC Executive Board. Great advisers guide and support students, but never force. However, they do also advise and guide when students are going astray.

Advise: What is the concluding best piece of advice you can give Honor Society and student council advisers?

Hashimoto: Throughout life, find your special way to contribute to your community. It will be different for each person and can change over time. For me, at this point in my life, it is being involved in politics, but there are so many other ways to make an impact. It is important to identify your own unique passion, because if it is important to you, it will never be viewed as work. The underlying goal should always be making a difference, but it should always be fun and exciting. —