On August 9, 2020, a few of our friends helped us pack and donate 88 backpacks filled with school supplies to local nonprofits.
Cara Odo wanted the school supply drive to serve as a lesson for our keiki. The kids served alongside us, packing the backpacks for their "friends who don't have backpacks."
We donated the backpacks to the Susannah Wesley Community Center in Kalihi, the Institute for Human Services, and Kahauiki Village.
Nineteen college students made the best of a challenging situation this summer, using the cancellation of internships due to the global pandemic as an opportunity to make a difference.
The students were participants in the Jordan & Cara Odo Scholarship Foundation Virtual Summer Internship Program – a five-week online program designed to give students firsthand career experience during the pandemic.
“We noticed that businesses were cancelling their summer internship programs, leaving many students without opportunities this summer,” said Jordan Odo, the Foundation’s president. “The Virtual Summer Internship Program provides students with the practical experience they need while developing them into young leaders who make an impact in their community.”
J. J. Bernardo, a junior at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, decided to apply for the program due to the cancellation of his study abroad experience to Korea. “I was stuck at home, scrambling to find ways to pursue my professional development,” said Bernardo, a triple business major. “Being that this was a one-of-a-kind internship experience that was virtual, I applied knowing that I’d be able to benefit from it after having many plans postponed due to COVID-19.”
Bernardo and his colleagues collaborated over Zoom and other virtual online platforms. “These tools have allowed me to connect with and learn from people from across the state and country, which is something I am grateful for,” said Bernardo.
Today, many technology companies rely on these online platforms to collaborate on projects. Aaron Kagawa, one of twelve working professionals who volunteered to serve as a mentor for the program, works for San Francisco-based Kentik and believes this internship program is a great introduction for students into what it’s like to work remotely.
Kagawa and his fellow mentors provide the students with practical advice and instruction in the areas of finance, marketing, human resources, technology, and law while assisting with the students’ community-based projects.
The Foundation has received an outpouring of support from the business community. In addition to the mentors, a dozen recruiters helped students sharpen their interviewing and job preparation skills. Many other professionals have dropped into virtual meetings or “Office Hour” events to speak with the students about different career paths and industries, leadership values, and community issues.
The students presented their ideas on July 18th to a panel of business and government leaders, who provided real-time feedback and advice on the students’ projects. “I was truly inspired by all of their stories and the work all the students put into their projects,” said Jason Chang, President of The Queen’s Medical Center. Chang, who served as one of the judges, acknowledged that it’s an unprecedented time and applauded the students’ effort to help the community.
Due to the generous contributions of The Queen’s Health Systems, First Insurance Company of Hawaii, and American Savings Bank, all 19 students participating in the program will receive a scholarship to continue pursuing their dreams.
For recent Kamehameha Schools graduate, Teiana Gonsalves, the internship program has proved to be worthwhile. “This program has really broadened the scope of my learning experience.” Gonsalves, who is attending Stanford University in the fall, says she’s grown tremendously as a reader, writer, speaker, teammate, thinker and change maker. “This summer opportunity has allowed me to envision myself as a contributor to a larger community and think critically on ways to effectuate genuine change.”
Evelyn Chow has proven to be a real change maker, community builder, and advocate.
After graduating from Kalani High School and receiving the Jordan & Cara Odo Scholarship Foundation’s first scholarship, she went on to study at Seattle University and has instantly immersed herself in the community there.
Now, almost five years later, Evelyn has earned her bachelor’s degree in Sociology and two minors in Philosophy and Global African Studies.
She has also kept herself very busy outside of school.
Evelyn works in the Advocacy Department of a Seattle-based nonprofit called Real Change, a street newspaper focused on economic, social, and racial justice issues. She spends her days advancing the life stories and interests of vulnerable populations in the community.
Despite having to work during the coronavirus pandemic, Evelyn was gracious to respond to some of our questions. (See below.)
Evelyn is a true young leader. We are very proud of her!
Jordan Odo: How was your time at Seattle University?
Evelyn Chow: My time at Seattle University was very important for me to develop the social justice values that I hold today. Living and learning about sociology in a city as big and rapidly changing as Seattle was very formative for my education.
Besides going to class and studying, what activities were you involved in on campus?
I was elected into student government as an at-large representative my first and second years, after which I transitioned into serving as a student representative in other departments and administrative offices. In my junior year, I co-founded the Gender Justice Center on campus because a group of my peers and I realized there were no spaces that were serving the needs of transgender, non-binary, and women students on our campus. During our first year, we were recognized by Seattle University as the year's "Outstanding Organization" at the annual SU recognition dinner. I later served in the center continuing to do work on gender-inclusive policy development as well as community outreach.
What was the most fulfilling part of your college experience?
The most fulfilling part of my college experience was building relationships with people both on and off-campus, as well as learning more intentionally about the history and policies that shape our society and what can be done to improve them.
What are you up to these days?
These days, I am working full-time at a non-profit called Real Change (in the Advocacy Department). I work with local and municipal officials as well as folks who have experienced or are currently experiencing poverty and homelessness to promote policies and campaigns that serve their needs and, in concurrence, the needs of the residents of the city. Some examples of our successful campaigns have been securing funding for mobile pit stops (10 public bathrooms) in our city's budget, and most recently working with our County to provide low-barrier access to public transportation.
I have a part-time job as the Communications Director for a candidate for WA State House of Rep., Kirsten Harris-Talley. I've been developing my portfolio as a communications specialist in local grassroots campaigns and have been enjoying learning about the intricacies of governmental communication in this and past roles in communications.
Despite your busy schedule, how have you continued to incorporate community service into your life?
Community service is, arguably, the top priority in my life. Both in my career and outside of it, I am consistently plugged into many different community organizing efforts. Most recently, I'm part of organizing mutual aid networks in Seattle for folks who are being extremely impacted by COVID-19 financially and otherwise. This includes coordinating grocery dropoffs and organizing support for restaurants, especially in our Chinatown-International District area ,which have been experiencing a sharp decrease in sales due to the racist narratives perpetuated with the coronavirus.
What career are you interested in?
I'm currently in community organizing, and envision myself continuing to do work that serves people, especially folks who have been continuously wronged by our system. I am in the process of looking into grad programs. I've considered going to law school, but I am also really interested in getting a master's in urban/city planning.
It's a wrap! Our first Lilo Mentorship Program cohort is in the books.
On October 19th, our mentees presented on a community issue of their choice and discussed their personal and professional goals with their mentors, our Mentorship Committee, and a handful of guests, including UH Professor Constancio Paranal, life coach Cynthia Yamasaki, and attorneys Sergio Alcubilla and Jennifer Yamanuha.
It was so inspiring to hear how these up-and-coming leaders -- proud Kahauiki Village residents and Moanalua High School students -- want to help make Hawaii a better place by uplifting our homeless population, creating more affordable homes, and reducing plastic waste.
Our mentees received guidance from a group of generous and talented mentors, including David Saka (a realtor and former collegiate golfer), Julie Matsunaga (a registered nurse at the Kapiolani Medical Center), John Doyle (a cybersecurity professional with the Department of Defense), and Jojo Abuan (a paramedic with the City & County of Honolulu).
The Lilo Mentorship Program began in June 2019, with workshops on self-discovery, personal branding, and resume building at the offices of Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel, in downtown Honolulu. From July to October, the mentors and mentees met at Kahauiki Village to discuss their goals, build a resume, and collaborate on possible solutions for community issues.
The October 19th session was a end-cap celebration reception for the program. All of our mentors and guests left the session inspired by our mentees, who have faced so much adversity in their young lives.
Our foundation, with a matching donation from an anonymous donor, awarded the mentees' family a scholarship of $500, which will be used on the mentees' future education expenses.
Congrats to our mentees! Thank you to our mentors, guests, and continued supporters! We look forward to continuing our mission to empower future difference makers.
Yesterday was the deadline to apply for our 2019 Leadership Scholarship. Students had to submit a resume and personal statement and write an essay about an issue in their community that concerned them.
We received applications from 108 students representing dozens of public and private high schools on four islands. We are so impressed by what our next generation of Hawaii leaders are doing in the community.
We really wish we could award more than one scholarship this year, but our goal is to save up for an endowment that can provide scholarships to Hawaii students in perpetuity. Our Scholarship Committee will have the tough task of narrowing the applications to one scholarship recipient!
We will be announcing our scholarship recipient in May and recognizing the recipient at our Scholarship Luncheon on Saturday, June 15, 2019 (mark your calendars).
One of our core belief is that fundraising does not need to be boring. We spent this weekend with 24 of our old and new friends at a few Waikiki bars, raising money for scholarships.
Thank you to Malia and Paul, two of our outstanding Leadership Council members, who planned the event.
At the end of January, we published the qualifications, criteria, and application requirements for our 2019 Jordan & Cara Odo Leadership Scholarship. As the name of the scholarship makes evident, we are looking for a Hawaii high school senior who serves as a leader in his/her community. Applicants must submit their resume, personal statement, and essay.
To publicize the scholarship, we've reached out to college counselors at 70 public and private high schools and a few community organizations. We've also posted our scholarship on a few national scholarship databases.
Help us spread the word!
As a nonprofit, we rely on the talent, expertise, and dedication of our wonderful team of volunteers. Without them, we could not work to achieve our three goals of developing a sustainable scholarship endowment, recognizing the contributions of young leaders, and empowering future difference makers.
We are so happy that Trevor Baba, Karen Wong, and John Doyle have joined our team!
Trevor is a teacher at Radford High School, where he helps prepare students for college through the AVID program and develops leadership skills through his supervision of the student council. He graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a Bachelor's in Education. He is also currently working on completing his Master's program in Educational Foundations.
Karen is a civil engineer at NAVFAC Hawaii, where she helps our service members of the U.S. Navy and Air Force by planning for and addressing facilities needs at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Prior to working at NAVFAC, she was a traffic engineer for Austin Tsutsumi & Associates. Originally from Tahiti, she graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a Bachelor's of Science in Civil Engineering.
John is a Technical Director for the Department of Defense, supporting U.S. Pacific Command. Prior to his public service, he led technology services and IT operations at Farelogix Inc., a venture capital startup. He graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor's of Science in Computer Engineering, and most recently from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with an Master's of Business Administration. John also serves on the Board of Directors for the Shidler Alumni Association.
Trevor and Karen will serve on our Scholarship Committee, alongside Cara Odo, Alysa Tomasa, Tanya Sasaoka, and Jon Alarcio. John will help roll out our youth development efforts through the Mentorship Committee.
Visit the Our Team page to see the whole team.
We held our second annual Scholarship Luncheon on June 12, 2016, at Dave & Buster's. Around 75 people, including last year's recipient, Evelyn Chow, helped us congratulate our Leadership Scholarship recipient, Crystal Cebedo.
Thank you for attending the event and continuing to support our efforts. Without our friends and family, we would not be able to award any scholarships.
Thank you to our awesome supporters! We had a blast at our "Homecoming Mash Up" karaoke event. Come join us next year!