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2024 ʻOAKA Leadership Council

Amylia-Rae Gandolf, 24, was born and raised in Waimea and currently resides in Waikōloa, Hawaiʻi. She is a 2018 graduate of Kamehameha Schools Keaʻau Campus and earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. "Stepping into the role of ʻOAKA Coordinator, I was gifted the kuleana of inviting 9 young adults to serve on our 2024 ʻOAKA Leadership Council. These ʻōpio, representing different districts across Hawaiʻi Island, were brought together with intention - each demonstrating their passion and commitment to our community. As members, they will participate in quarterly convenings that shape the future of our alliance and breathe life into the mission of being youth-driven and youth-led. Please join us in welcoming our council members!"

Benjamin Rudo, 21, was born and raised in Keaʻau. He attends the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and is pursuing degrees in chemistry and biology. Ben began working with Vibrant Hawaiʻi as a Community Resilience Fellow in 2022 and is an alumnus of the 2023 Ambassador cohort. “The Ambassadorship is easily one of the most life-changing experiences I've had. And only for the better. I’m forever grateful and truly wish all youth were provided this opportunity.” Ben continues to support the work of Vibrant Hawaiʻi and ʻOAKA through the Mountain View Elementary School Community Garden Project, an initiative focused on providing students with gardening education facilitated by Vibrant Hawaiʻi interns.

Cienna Marie Corpuz, 22, was born and raised in Pepeʻekeo, Hawaiʻi. She graduated from Waiākea High School in 2019, and later attended San Diego State University to pursue her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, which she earned in May 2023. Cienna is an alumnus of the Fall 2023 Ambassador cohort and now serves Vibrant Hawaiʻi as administrative and programmatic support (kākoʻo). "My time as an Ambassador helped me to build confidence along my journey. The people I met through this internship have done an amazing job of supporting and empowering me every step of the way. I'm so grateful for the continued opportunity to play my part in healing the community through Vibrant Hawaiʻi and ʻOAKA."

Cole Fuertes, 24, represents the moku of North Kohala. He started his professional journey with Vibrant Hawaiʻi as a Community Engagement Ambassador in 2021, co-founding the ʻOAKA initiative alongside his colleague and friend Kuʻuhiapo Jeong. Within a year, Cole's commitment and skills led him to a new position as the Communications Coordinator and now Graphic Designer. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing from Menlo College and continues to express enthusiasm for his work. “Since the inception of ʻOAKA, I've been privileged to work alongside some of the best and brightest youth. Witnessing the empowerment of youth in nurturing the future of our island is truly inspiring.”

Faith Aurello, 24, was born and raised in Hilo, Hawai‘i. She received her Associate of Arts degree from Rogue Community College (Medford, OR) and most recently received her Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Sustainability from Bellevue University (Bellevue, NE). While pursuing her degrees, Faith has worked for multiple retail corporations but is currently employed at Target. Eventually, she would like to work with a local, non-profit conservation organization like Kupu in hopes of pursuing a career with the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). "I joined the ‘OAKA Leadership Council to support one of my dearest friends involved with the organization and to help make a difference in the communities of Hawai‘i's youth."

"Participating in the council will allow me to see the behind-the-scenes work of Vibrant Hawai‘i and strengthen my leadership and communication skills to help build a healthy future for our keiki, and in the process, teach them essential life skills to pursue their goals."

Ku'uhiapo Jeong, 23, from Puna, Hawai'i, attended Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu and later graduated from Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi Campus. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and will be graduating with his master’s degree in Public Relations and Reputation Management from Biola University this May. He has deep-rooted ties to Lower Puna and currently serves as the Council Legislative Assistant to Council Member Ashley L. Kierkiewicz of District 4 Lower Puna. In this capacity, he aims to create a safe space for Puna and support its growth and development. His career aspiration is to work as a brand developer, leveraging his knowledge of public relations and proficiency in graphic design to promote and amplify the stories and identities of grassroots initiatives and organizations in Hawaiʻi.

Kuʻuhiapo is a board member of Vibrant Hawaiʻi and one of the co-founders of its ʻŌpio Alliance for Kuleana Advancement (ʻOAKA) stream. He plans to continue supporting ʻOAKA's work and Vibrant Hawai'i ecosystem to ensure their success in serving communities for years to come.

Makanaohaililani Waikiki, 25, was born and raised in Hilo and Keaukaha and currently lives in Waimea. She is a 2017 graduate from Kamehameha Schools Keaʻau Campus and attended Hawaiʻi Community College and the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo before moving to Oregon in 2018 to start the journey toward her bachelor's degree. Makana graduated as a Diversity Scholar, Founder, and Director of the Freedom Center, Multicultural Student Union President for 3 years, and student ambassador to Hawaiʻi with her bachelor's in Communications and a minor in Forensic Psychology from Western Oregon University. Makana is now the Marketing Lead at the Purple Maiʻa Foundation, overseeing the department for the entire organization and its many programs. "I am the most motivated and passionate when telling stories, especially stories of our kanaka and those doing amazing work for our lāhui."

Makana was also a Community Resilience Fellow with Vibrant Hawaiʻi in 2022. "I was continuously impressed and amazed by all of the amazing talent and resilience youth on Hawaiʻi Island possessed and always brought to the table. I am excited for this opportunity to advise and give back to the youth working in the community now, through sharing my experiences and some easy, achievable steps to getting where they want to be, in a way that my mentors had done for me."

Mekaila Pasco, 22, was born and raised in North Kohala. She graduated in May of 2023 from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Multidisciplinary Hawaiian Studies certificate. Mekaila is now enrolled in the Counseling Psychology program at UH, hoping to obtain her master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. "My long-term goal is to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the state of Hawaiʻi and to work with a Native Hawaiian-serving organization. I understand the critical need for culturally-aligned counselors who validate and uphold mental health awareness and wellness in our island communities. Therefore, I have decided to join the ʻŌpio Alliance for Kuleana Advancement Council in hopes of participating in the conversations for youth leadership."

Rebekah Kurokawa, 21, proudly represents her hometown of Hilo and works with the Big Island Substance Abuse Council as a Community Engagement Specialist. One of the main drivers of her work is the desire to give back to the community that raised her. "Social work has become my chosen career path, driven by my passion for making meaningful impacts and fostering positive change within communities. I am thrilled to be a part of the 'OAKA Leadership Council because of my deep-rooted belief that our youth hold the key to Hawai'i's future. I look forward to immersing myself in community initiatives, collaborating with fellow council members, and actively participating in projects aimed at enhancing the well-being and prosperity of our beloved island."

Trevondrick Francis, 22, was raised on the Hāmākua coast, graduating from Honokaʻa High School in 2019. He later earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Certificate in Education in from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo in May of 2023. Trevondrick is also one of ʻOAKA's most recent Ambassador Alumni and continues to contribute by playing a lead role in facilitating our islandwide Adulting 101 workshops and representing ʻOAKA at youth-related convenings and events.

"I can't wait to see more youth expand their development by taking the opportunity to get involved with our program.”



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