KS connects college students with virtual internships during COVID-19 crisis

Jul. 15, 2020

Contributed by Nadine Lagaso

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, when infectious disease experts called for the closure of schools and businesses, the Kamehameha Schools Kāpili ʻOihana Internship team called out to their community partners to find those who could offer virtual internships to Native Hawaiian college students.

Their kāhea was answered by 22 organizations across the state including the Blue Zone Project, DTL Hawaiʻi, Mana Up, ʻŌlelo Community Media, Purple Maiʻa and WCIT Architecture. The partners provided 48 virtual internships in the fields of architecture, sustainability, community health, education, technology and more. 

“I am so proud of our team’s ability to adapt our program in such a short period of time,” said  Kehau Puʻu KSK’90, KS Kealakūlia Community Education director. “Guided by COVID-19 health and safety protocols, we quickly researched and redesigned what has traditionally been an in-person internship program to work as a virtual one.”

Meet our KS interns
The KS Community and Government Relations Division (CGR) was seeking interns with a passion for community advocacy. Enter Aya Chang KSK’18 – a Columbia University junior pursuing a degree in urban studies and sociology, and Lauren Lau KSK’19 – a Pomona College sophomore pursuing a degree in international relations and economics.

Chang conducted research to determine the barriers and benefits that political candidates experience in running for office in Hawaiʻi. Her research helped identify opportunities for further education and leadership development, and to encourage civic engagement and empowerment.

Lau researched federal education funding received by Hawaiʻi in fiscal year 2020 and compared it to funding received by school districts across the nation with comparable student populations to find the gaps in grants that they are receiving that we are not and vice versa.

“Our objective was to provide each intern relevant, engaging and valuable experiences while helping Kamehameha Schools’ progress towards our advocacy goals that address Native Hawaiian well-being through public policy,” said Kauʻi Burgess, Community and Government Relations Director. “The interns reported to CGR Specialist Sam Kippen KSK’07 with guidance from Manager ‘Olu Campbell KSK’08.”

“Both of our Kāpili ʻOihana interns demonstrated a level of intelligence, innovative thinking and cultural groundedness that would benefit any employer,” Burgess said. “Each understood their role in the larger picture and how their efforts can contribute to our goals for the lāhui Hawaiʻi.

“Their work will be used to inform KS and our partners as we continue to look for ways to advocate for positive systems change in Hawaiʻi. Ultimately, we want to create a steady Native Hawaiian pipeline from high school to leadership at all levels and in all areas of Hawaiʻi’s government.”

A mahalo from our interns
“Considering all that Ke Aliʻi Pauahi has provided for me, I am happy to give back. Working for Kamehameha Schools solidified for me that I eventually would like to return home and do work that benefits the lāhui. I wish that I was able to meet and interact with the team in person, but the virtual experience was valuable. Kauʻi Burgess gave me some very empowering advice. She told me that being Native Hawaiian is an asset. Having a Hawaiian cultural background is valuable to employers and as a job candidate, I will keep that in mind when I negotiate my future salary.” – Aya Chang KSK’18

“Being able to help fulfill Ke Aliʻi Pauahi’s legacy was incredibly rewarding because it was just a small way I could give back for everything that Kamehameha Schools has given me. Additionally, knowing the reach of Princess Pauahi’s legacy makes me proud to be a part of something that truly changes the lives of Native Hawaiians and the community. I hope that whatever career I pursue, it will allow me to come back home and serve the community I have grown up in. The virtual internship during these times was more than I could ask for, as it allowed me to keep myself and my family safe.” – Lauren Lau KSK’19