UH Maui College’s Circle K International (Circle K) is a campus club dedicated to community service. Circle K organized on Maui College in early 2015. Circle K International’s mission statement is: “To be the leading global community-service organization on college and university campuses that enriches the world one member, one child, and one community at a time; Circle K International develops college and university students into a global network of responsible citizens and leaders with a lifelong commitment to service.” I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Aileen Ballesteros, the founder and former President of Circle K International at Maui College to discuss the club, leadership, and what drives her. Circle K elections were a week before this interview where she stepped down because she is graduating.
Campus Close Up (CCU): What is Circle K?
Aileen: Circle K International is the world’s largest college organization dedicated to community service. Circle K is sponsored by Kiwanis International and Circle K at Maui College works with three key clubs from Baldwin High School, King Kekaulike High School, and Maui High School. Together with our club on Maui College this makes four key Circle K International clubs serving Maui’s community.
CCU: What kind of community service does Circle K at Maui College do?
Aileen: We commit to one or two community service events a month. At first we used to search for projects we could help with and partner up with, now projects are coming to us. We sometimes have to be selective based on club member availability when we have too many offers to participate. We have helped with the Maui Okinawan Festival. We did Bocce Ball at Mulligan’s on the Blue to feed underprivileged elementary students for the weekend that may not have a meal over the weekend. We are currently running a Food Bank donation drive. We also partnered with SOS Club, Kabatak Club, and Anthropology Club earlier this semester to clean Kahului Beach Road for an Adopt-A-Highway event. We look for and participate in community service projects.
CCU: With all this partnership work and serving of the community, I have to imagine you meet a lot of prominent people. Is Circle K a networking club?
Aileen: Yes. We plan our events and partner up with other campus and community organizations. We sometimes participate in large events with many community members involved. With these partnerships we have leadership opportunities for our officers and members. Our officers manage events and our role in collaborating with other organizations. Last semester we had over fifteen events with the public, such as Shop with a Cop where police officers bring an underprivileged kid out shopping.
CCU: Did you start Circle K on Maui College?
Aileen: Yes. As a freshman I reached out to other clubs and didn’t find a service based club dedicated to giving back to our community through community service. I wanted to be more involved with community service work. I started Circle K to create a club for people like me that want to be service oriented.
CCU: Wow, that’s great! Was it difficult?
Aileen: That depends on how you look at it. I was looking for leaders that wanted to be leaders in the community and on campus. When I first started the process of getting Circle K off the ground I looked into resources, did all the paperwork, and jumped through all the hoops to get this going. I then got sponsorship and financial backing from Kiwanis International. We had events, sponsorship, and financial backing before we were a recognized registered club on campus.
CCU: Nice work! Any surprises during that process?
Aileen: Circle K does not represent UHMC, we are Circle K at UHMC. The campus cannot recognize any clubs officially. Student Government and Student Activities Council are the only two chartered school organizations that can represent the campus. We did have a Charter Night Event that celebrated our club charter and becoming official. The mayor signed a document for Circle K.
CCU: How has this process of organizing and starting an internationally recognized club on UH Maui campus helped your leadership?
Aileen: This process has shown me the power of group effort. This started with my vision like a “one-woman effort” and turned into a group vision. I had to do all the leg work at first, now we’re a strong club. I view us more than a club, we’re a movement.
Aileen: Circle K at Maui College is a student lead organization. Our faculty advisors don’t direct us, our efforts, or determine our projects. We are 100% student lead and organized.
CCU: Let’s switch gears a little. You’re graduating this May, what’s next for you?
Aileen: I am applying for Hawai’i division assistant of Circle K International. This position assists all the Presidents in the Paradise District. The Paradise District is Hawai’i and California. Division assistant will allow me to bridge communication between Hawai’i and California Circle K key clubs. I am also focused on strengthening clubs and finding ways to improve clubs.
CCU: What advice would you give to a potential student leader?
Aileen: Students should get out of their comfort zones. We are a tight knit community so go beyond your comfort zone of what you are familiar with and try new things. Find areas that need improvement or things that aren’t happening and go for it. Start something new. Don’t be stuck in a position or with the norm. There was a time when I found starting Circle K and being President overwhelming. I knew this is what I wanted to do so I stuck with it and I love it! Starting a club or taking a leadership role isn’t graded, it’s something you do for yourself. If you have the drive and passion you can make a difference in your own life and the lives of others.
Interested in learning more about the Circle K International? They will have a booth at the 2nd Annual Earth Day Festival on Maui College on Wednesday, April 20, 2016. They can also be reached at: https://ckiuhmc.wordpress.com/, or http://maui.hawaii.edu/studentlife/circle-k-international/.