2019 Leadership Scholarship Recipient
By Jordan Odo, President
Most high school students are concerned about their immediate surroundings — their home life, circle of friends, school, and local community. For Kau'i Leong, however, that is not the case.
Don’t get her wrong. Kau'i is an unapologetically proud resident of Nanakuli and has already, at such a young age, invested so much time in her community. She has volunteered to benefit her school, community library, and a local farm. She has also participated in her school’s newswriting program, interviewing members of her community.
Kau'i thinks highly of her Nanakuli peers, despite the challenges they face at home and school. She sees their intelligence and talents and does what she can to listen and make their lives better. Kau'i’s advisor described her as the epitome of a “servant leader” — someone who spends her energy ensuring that each person in the group feels comfortable and valued.
What makes Kau'i so unique is that she wants to bring the world to Nanakuli and vice versa. It’s a little unusual to see someone her age have an interest in helping her peers become better global citizens.
Kau'i has co-founded the Nanakuli Youth Leadership Board to bring together her peers to solve issues they cared about, with an emphasis in global education. She has also planned the Global Leadership Week at her high school to highlight different aspects of global citizenship, such as charity, gratitude, leadership, and culture. Additionally, during high school, she was involved in the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council and founded a Korean cultural club.
When we met her earlier in June, Kau'i spoke about the need for global education with so much passion. She learned first hand how important it is to understand others and how it’s possible for young people, even in Hawaii, to make a positive impact in the world. Last year, she traveled to South Korea through a scholarship. She learned about historical tensions between Koreans and Japanese and committed herself to learning why that occurred, so she could be a part of efforts to prevent future transgressions.
This summer, Kaui is spending her time in Vietnam on a Service Learning Study Tour to teach English to children in Vietnam.
We are so impressed by Kaui’s accomplishments thus far and are excited to see the future impact she will have in Hawaii. Congratulations, Kaui!
2017 Leadership Scholarship Recipient
By Jordan Odo, President
Case McKinley graduated from Waialua High School with a 4.1 GPA, making him the top of his senior class. He has taken numerous Advanced Placement classes and has been awarded the Harvard Book Award, which is awarded to only a select group of students who display “excellence in scholarship and high character, combined with achievements in other fields.”
Aside from his academic achievements, Case has impressed our Scholarship Committee with his active involvement in his high school and community. For instance, he served on Waialua’s School Community Council and on the statewide Hawaii High School Community Council. He also participated in the YMCA Youth and Government program for three years, wherein he served as Senate Sergeant at Arms and gave the keynote address at the opening session.
For the 2016 election, Case helped register people to vote by cold calling members of his community. Through this experience, he has met a lot of people and was able to have a dialogue about the issues affecting people in our state and country.
Two years ago, Case started a Speech and Debate program at his high school. He enlisted the help of a teacher and rallied his peers to join the team. In his senior year, he also helped to mentor new members. Through his hard work and dedication, he formed and led a passionate group of students at his school and went on to win a state championship and competed on the national level.
All of this made Case an excellent candidate for our scholarship. What really stood out to our Scholarship Committee, though, was Case’s advocacy for individuals with disabilities. In 2015, Case applied for a driver’s permit only to be told that he could not sit for the written test because a DMV clerk saw him walking awkwardly. The DMV clerk told him that he needed to provide his medical history to the DMV for review. He did so, but he did not hear anything for months.
Eventually, Case visited the DMV to check on the status of his application, but he got stonewalled. Case respectfully refused to leave until a police officer arrived and asked the DMV clerk to provide him an answer. Through his quiet protest, Case learned that applications for individuals with disabilities are reviewed by a five-member Medical Advisory Board. The Board, however, could not review Case’s application because only one member was appointed, resulting in a lack of quorum and a backlog of people like Case waiting to take the driver’s exam or renew their license.
Wanting to see a change, Case networked with doctors and legislators, researched case studies on disabled drivers, and called a reporter with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, who wrote a front-page article on the issue. Ultimately, he got the attention of the Director of Honolulu’s Department of Customer Services, who Case worked with to create new processes for individuals with disabilities.
Because of Case’s perseverance, the DOT created an alternate working group that approved more than 70 cases within a few weeks. Not only was Case able to take his permit test (and eventually get his license); he helped many other people get their licenses as well.
Case will be going to Harvard College this fall. Ultimately, he wants to go to law school and then have a career in government or law. In his personal statement, he said, “It will be my job to do the work that allows people to live quality lives.”
2016 Leadership Scholarship Recipient
By Tanya Sasaoka, 2016 Scholarship Committee member
As a part of the selection committee, we searched for a high school student who demonstrated leadership skills and embodied the vision and mission of the foundation. Our goal was to find a student engaged and knowledgeable of the issues facing our community, and who encouraged and supported future leaders to make Hawaii a better place.
Of the 116 applicants we reviewed, Crystal most certainly stood out. She indeed embodied the vision and mission, as she gives insight and perspective to one of the biggest issues that affect our islands today—homelessness. Crystal, along with the help of three other talented students, edited, co-shot, and wrote a national award-winning news feature titled, “Without Home.” It is a story about the Hale Aʻole homeless encampment in Waianae. The video can be found at https://vimeo.com/143196773.
Crystal is not only engaged and knowledgeable about the issues that face Hawaii, but she is an amazing leader. Like many other great leaders, she has the ability to evoke emotion and inspire others. As I read her personal statement, it got me teary eyed. She wrote about having to be a leader of her family at the young age of 13, when her mother passed away due to cancer. Despite the many challenges that Crystal faced, she showed great resiliency. Crystal made great achievements academically, graduating valedictorian of her class, and through extra-curricular activities, receiving the ESP award as the top student of Waianae’s Searider Productions which includes about 300 students, receiving regional awards for The Skills USA vocational broadcasting category, and national awards for her digital media pieces. She was the editing and videographer producer of Searider Productions, through which she produced bi-weekly news shows, created pieces for national competitions, and mentored and taught other students in the classroom.
As young as Crystal is, she is already giving back to future leaders. As a high school student, she went down to the middle school to coordinate their color guard. She presented at workshops and participated as a mentor, giving trainings about digital media throughout the state. Her advisor Mr. Allen shared that Crystal is more than capable of doing things herself, but she empowers and guides her peers to reach their own personal achievements for the team.
Crystal will be attending Menlo College next year, where she received a full ride scholarship to pay for her tuition. She is not yet decided on what she will study, but said a goal she has for her future is to give back to Searider Productions, a program that she said, did so much for her.
Congratulations, Crystal Cebedo, the recipient of the 2016 Jordan and Cara Odo Leadership Scholarship. You truly inspire us all. We thank you for being a great leader of your school, community, and state.
2015 Leadership Scholarship Recipient
By Lindsey Takara, 2015 Scholarship Committee member
This year’s recipient, Evelyn Chow, will be graduating from Kalani High School with a 4.0 GPA. She has served her class as commissioner, secretary, and then as president for her junior and senior years. Evelyn is the founder and president of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Club at Kalani High School and President of the Health Occupation Students of America Club, and has also participated on the Math Team, National Honors Society, and Mock Trials. Outside of school, she serves as a board member of the Life Foundation (an HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness non-profit organization) and the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network of Hawaii (a national organization that focuses on ensuring safe schools for LGBTQ teens). And if that didn’t keep her busy enough, she also works about 20 hours per week at Kuru Kuru Sushi.
Leadership is not a position or a title, it is action and example. One of the many reasons we chose Evelyn, was because of her passion for equality and safety and how she acted on it. She identified the issue of LGBTQ teen suicide and took action to address it. At her high school she founded and serves as president of a LGBTQ-related support group. She also became involved with the Life Foundation and GLSEN Hawaii, and her contributions only continue to grow through her volunteer efforts.
Evelyn plans to return to the islands after completing her education and to take on a part time volunteering role that will benefit the LGBTQ community alongside her professional career. Evelyn is even thinking of taking over the GSA Hawaii name. I spoke with the current GSA Hawaii coordinator, Kaulana Chang, a few weeks ago. He works with Evelyn often and was so happy that Evelyn had received the scholarship. He assured me that we chose well. We talked about how busy and impressive Evelyn is. I wondered how Evelyn could accomplish so much. Kaulana then spoke of a time when he needed to have a meeting with Evelyn. Even though she was busy working at Kuru Kuru, she used a break just to meet him at Starbucks. This is just one example of Evelyn’s hard work and dedication.
In the fall, Evelyn will be attending Seattle University. We are excited for her future there and in Hawaii as well. It has been said that “There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” Evelyn, we believe that you have what it takes to make a positive change. We wish you the best of luck as you start your undergraduate career and we hope that receiving this scholarship from the Jordan & Cara Odo Scholarship Foundation encourages, supports, and helps to equip you with the knowledge and skills to make Hawaii a better place to live, work, and play. Congratulations, Evelyn!