I like to make it personal
I was dealt a hand most would have folded on. Every opportunity that has presented its self to me I have taken it. That kind of living has led me into a colorful variety of industries and I have honed many skillsets. Those skillsets have taken me far from home and my hand has become the one to beat on the table after the turn.
I am on the executive committee of the Libertarian Party of Hawaii, a member of the National Libertarian Party, Vice-President of Zonta Club of Leilehua, and a member of the Hawaii Veteran Cannabis Alliance. I am a Class of Corona graduate from Hawaii Pacific University and this year I am running for Hawaii Senate District 20.
From childhood I enjoyed music first, I grew up listening to sounds from Motown to grunge and everything in between. In high school, I started to get into theatre and film. While I was in high school I would work part-time and the summers for my aunt who owned a small print shop. It was there I learned about different printing presses and machines that drill, bind, collate, and cut. This is where I first started to get an eye for detail in media, from the texture of the paper and color of the ink to identifying and editing grammar, spelling, and format errors. I was good at film and theatre, but I lacked the kind of funds and confidence required to go to a film school. I applied to only one college because I knew I would be accepted there. After one semester at a conservative Christian college, I left. There were two reasons, one I owed 15k for one semester and two; I didn’t even like the school. In the four years after graduating high school, I took one more semester of classes and received industry certifications from a community college.
The Struggle is Real
In those four years, I mostly worked. I lived on my own and paid my own way. I worked again for my aunt for a while but desired more independence. I had two jobs at a time to cover the cost of living and repayment of college loans. I worked in the restaurant industry as a waitress, but the money was unreliable. I started to work for an old friend of the family at a tanning salon while I was waiting tables. One day I waited for an opportunity, an old teacher I had. She told me to become a substitute teacher to see if I liked teaching. It only required one certification that I could get in about three months and paid about $100 a day. I took the class, quit my waitress job, and started substitute teaching. I still had my tanning salon job and I was getting called daily for work as a sub. My preferred grades were sixth to eighth grade, which happens to be the hardest group to get a fill-in for. In the summer months, I was a nanny for a family with three children between the ages of four and ten. In the winter months, I worked the extra retail hours that come with the holidays. All the while working at the tanning salon, and as a substitute while school was in session. I enjoyed the work, but I had no personal time and not much in my bank account to make up for it. I needed a change; I was on the verge of buying the tanning salon when I was compelled to an opportunity that had always been humming in the back of my mind.
On July 5th, 2006 I went to the Marines recruiting station. I walked up to the door where there were men in uniform standing around smoking cigarettes, cussing, and laughing. I pulled on the Marines’ door, it was locked. The men asked me if I was looking for the Marine recruiters, I said yes and that I had decided I wanted to join the Marines. One of the men then asked me if I wanted to get shot at, I said not particularly, but I was willing if it came down to it. They then told me the Marines were out golfing, but if I did not mind NOT getting shot at I could join the Navy. On August 16th, 2006 I went off to become an Aegis Computer and Network Fire Controlman.
My educational experience from the Navy was more than the technical aspects I have already spoken on, it was for me a ten-year work-study-abroad program. Six of the ten years were spent at sea, visiting places I would never have been able to go to on my own, and experiencing things I never dreamed I would. I sang for the Navy’s Gospel Choir in Chicago. I spilled tea on the President of Panama. I got in the cage with Great White Sharks off the coast of South Africa (where they jump out of the water like dolphins to sink their jaws into a tasty seal). I shook hands with a man who escaped two concentration camps. While assuming the role of the ship’s photographer, my photos were published in several outlets.
My favorite role I took on was as a community relations coordinator. In that role I planned, organized, and publicized volunteers from the Navy with civilian non-profit organizations. In Savannah GA, I organized events with the United Way, the local YMCA, and FoodBank. In Odessa, Georgia (the country), I coordinated the efforts of over one-hundred sailors on one day to an orphanage for children under the age of 7. The sailors were moved over the experience and I had the privilege of collecting over $1200 in donations to send to the orphanage.
Anything I become interested enough to participate in I usually end up with some kind of roll involving higher responsibility. Getting involved in US politics while in the military is a little tricky, however, they have their own version of politics that is highly encouraged. Politics in the Navy are based on your rank and are called associations. These associations operated with a president down to an enforcer of bylaws. I have played each of these rolls and everything in-between.
After six years of the sea, it was time for me to be land-based for a while. As a female, when that happens in the Navy you go where they need a female. The Navy needed a female prison guard; at least the prison was in Hawaii. I cannot sugar coat this I hated being a prison guard. No one escaped and nothing bad happened, but the experience was enough for me.
The Journey Back
I left the Navy in August 2016, I had already been scouted and recruited by General Dynamics to teach all the technical things I learned in the Navy. I thought I was going to like it more, I thought it was going to be different since I wasn’t going to be wearing a uniform anymore. It wasn’t where I needed to be anymore and I wanted to go back to school. I put a notice in and still went above and beyond in my last weeks there.
When I looked at my total education experience I figured I should go for a computer science degree, and if I were to be so bold an electrical engineering degree. I started my classes at Hawaii Pacific University as a computer science major taking most of my general education classes at the military campus location. In the fall of 2017, I wanted to try to push my brain. I signed up for Physics, Calculus, and Computer Programing all in the same semester, this time at the main campuses. I did well in the programing class and another class I took as a schedule filler to maintain full-time status. My filler class influenced me to change my major to something artsier.
I had a coming to Jesus moment and asked myself “Why was I on this path to computer science?” I could do it and I was good at it, but I would have three more years of school to go through for a bachelor’s degree to learn the things military school already did but are not counted towards a degree. The next thought was if I am going to spend two years or more learning something, I wanted to really like it and learn something new.
My filler class was a film studies class, back to my high school dreams. Why not? I paid for my education already by my service in the military, why not study something I have always liked and wanted to do? I changed my major, made some films, and won some awards for them. I graduated class of Corona 2020, with honors. If you want to see some of my work check out the Feena Bonoan Productions page.