Maui native Honeygirl Duman was making a good living in the helicopter tour industry, but 17 years and several college courses later, her work today is very much fixed on the ground. Now a supervisory park ranger at Haleakalā National Park, Duman recalls her journey from the University of Hawai‘i Maui College to becoming an employee of the National Park Service.
“My love for Hawaiian language led me back to school,” said Duman, whose grandmother was fluent in the language. “It was daunting, going back after such a long time, but it turned out to be such a great experience for me.”
Her Hawaiian language courses at UH Maui College eventually led her to a Hawaiian ethnobotany course, introducing her to the study of Hawai‘i’s unique flora and their relationship to man and the environment. Service learning projects brought the class to Waikamoi Preserve and Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, where Duman became fascinated by her guide’s ability to pick apart and explain the “organized chaos of a forest.”
“There was no turning back,” said Duman. “After that, I knew I needed to protect these resources by educating people about them.”
Duman went on to become the first graduate of the Agriculture and Natural Resources degree program at UH Maui College, a program that focuses on management and conservation of Native Hawaiian cultural and natural resources. She credits the many dedicated instructors who inspired and motivated her to continue on.
“Their passion for what they were teaching, it really ‘stoked the fire’ for me,” added Duman.
A visit to Haleakalā National Park with family sparked Duman’s interest in potentially working for the park. After attending a career workshop and learning more about the National Park Service, she was determined to become a part of the team. So dressed to impress and with resume in hand, she introduced herself to her future supervisor and, in time, secured herself a position.
Today, Duman’s work at Haleakalā National Park largely involves engaging visitors with different aspects of the area, such as the flora, fauna and their historical, cultural and ecological significance. As a local, getting them to engage both intellectually and emotionally is particularly rewarding for Duman, who still loves witnessing the “aha!” moment when she’s able to teach visitors something new.
“Six years later and I’m still loving it,” said Duman. “Now I’m the supervisor training others to guide visitors in the forest, pointing out plants, birds, insects and all the organized chaos of wonder. The opportunities I’ve had that brought me to this point, these are things I’ll never take for granted. Being a part of the National Park Service has definitely been a dream come true for me.”