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Attorney Jordan Inafuku (center with lei) was a first-time participant at Launa ‘Ike – a mentorship program at KS Kapālama High School that connects students with alumni like himself already working in their desired career field. This was the eighth year for the program and serves as an opportunity for alumni to give back in time and talent.

Launa 'Ike helps haumāna create college and career pathways

Sept. 23, 2019

Contributed by Ben Balberdi

More than 1,600 Kamehameha Schools Kapālama haumāna received valuable insight from over 50 alumni earlier this month as part of Launa ‘Ike – a mentorship opportunity that allows alumni to give back by sharing knowledge and experience about their respective careers with high school students preparing for post-high endeavors.

“Launa ‘Ike allows our students to tap into a hui of seasoned professionals willing to share wisdom and advice with the next generation of leaders,” said Pono Ma‘a, director of Alumni Relations at KS. “For alumni, I hope they walk away from this experience with an understanding that they are vital to helping us uplift our lāhui.”

Now in its eighth year, the program, which is a collaboration between Alumni Relations and the KS Kapālama High School Counseling Department, featured alumni from a spectrum of professions including doctors, educators, flight attendants, a U.S. District judge, and even a counter terrorism analyst.

For students like sophomore Ivory Unga, this was an opportunity to access industry knowledge during the early stages of her career path.  

“My honors class in public speaking and experience as a speech and debate team member are helping me prepare for a career in law,” said Unga, who plans to attend law school on the west coast. “It’s also important to connect with professionals in the field to build that interest and inquiry outside of the classroom.”  

More than half of the mentors were participating for the first time. Beyond the chance to reconnect and network with each other, alumni explained that they felt the desire to get involved and reciprocate the generosity they have received as beneficiaries of Pauahi.

“Kamehameha expanded my comfort zone and gave me different perspectives and experiences that helped me excel in college and into adulthood,” said KSK alum Jordon Inafuku, an attorney at McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon LLP, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and a law degree from the University of Hawai‘i’s William S. Richards School of Law. “I thought it was a good opportunity to share my life path with students that are still beginning theirs. The more exposure they have to different paths, the better prepared they’d be to choose their own.”

Alisa Onishi, a KSK graduate now working as brand director at Hawaiian Airlines, appreciates the importance of mentoring she received throughout her schooling and 12-year career in the industry. She said: “The connections and lessons that I’ve learned from my mentors, coaches and teachers are what has paved my path. It’s fueled me and supported me through every part of my journey.”   

With a drive to engage all alumni across the pae ‘āina, the Alumni Relations team looks to expand Launa ‘Ike, as well as other programs, to the KS Maui and Hawai‘i Island campuses in the near future.

“As we build a more robust alumni network, one of our goals is tri-campus symmetry of events, may it be student, kumu, or alumni driven,” said Ma‘a. “Programs like Launa ʻIke ensure that we continue Pauahi’s great work of developing the ‘ōiwi leaders needed to advance our people forward.”

Hawaiian Airline Brand Director Alisa Onishi, a KSK graduate, aspired to go into broadcast journalism after graduating from Chapman University, but after a few years in the field, she found a niche for marketing. For Onishi, it was important to help students understand that changing career paths is viable.

With an alumni hui covering a variety of professions and industries, Launa ‘Ike also served as a networking opportunity for presenters and attendees.

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