Kupu opens new Ho’okupu Center to malama ‘āina and our youth

Posted on Apr 25, 2019 in Capitol Connection, Featured, Main

A little over 10 years ago, Kupu was a small organization with three young, dedicated co-founders and a dream: to restore the ‘āina while restoring lives. Today Kupu has grown to become the largest youth conservation-focused non-profit in the state. It has more than 150 partners throughout Hawai‘i and the Pacific and has generated nearly $100 million in economic benefits through conservation work, scholarships and career opportunities.

But the human factor that propelled the dream is still there — from co-founders John Leong, his wife Julianna and Matthew Bauer to the thousands of volunteers, program partners, and students who are part of Kupu’s mission to “learn, serve, restore.” The organization’s success in “preserving the land while empowering youth” was celebrated at its March 14 grand opening of the $6 million Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Ho‘okupu Center at Kewalo Basin. Community leaders and corporate donors mingled with the young people whose lives were transformed through Kupu.

Governor and Mrs. Ige with Outstanding Intern Maia Mayeshiro.

Governor and Mrs. Ige with Outstanding Intern Maia Mayeshiro.

Kupu co-founders Matthew Bauer, Julianna and John Leong with Corbett Kalama of the Weinberg Foundation and capital campaign chair Rich Wacker of American Savings Bank.

Kupu co-founders Matthew Bauer, Julianna and John Leong with Corbett Kalama of the Weinberg Foundation and capital campaign chair Rich Wacker of American Savings Bank.

Governor Ige praised Kupu as the first of its kind for green jobs training in the islands. “It’s a prime example of what we can do as a community when we work together and invest in the next generation,” the governor said. He also highlighted Kupu’s Hawai‘i Youth Sustainability Challenge, a legacy initiative announced by first lady Dawn Amano-Ige at the 2016 World Conservation Congress.

Kupu has won a string of awards for helping train future environmental leaders through its Hawai‘i Youth Conservation Corps (HYCC). Among them is Maia Mayeshiro, named Kupu’s Outstanding Intern and the 2017 Miss Hawai‘i Outstanding Teen. Mayeshiro joined Kupu’s HYCC as a high school alternative to pursue her education. “By restoring the ‘āina and our own restoration, we gained a profound appreciation of the land and the kuleana that comes with it,” said Mayeshiro. “I went from a failing student to a graduate (and pageant winner)— all because of the power of this place.”


First lady spotlights Hawai’i Youth Sustainability Challenge

Aquaponics, energy audits, eco-friendly sunscreen, campus recycling, and educating students about rapid ʻōhiʻa death. Those are just some of the 29 projects selected statewide as recipients of this year’s Hawai‘i Youth Sustainability Challenge mini-grants. Kupu, in collaboration with the Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation and other donors, offers schools mentorship and up to $1,000 for projects that address environmental challenges. “I’m thrilled to see so many students engage in the Challenge,” said first lady Dawn Amano-Ige. “These students are agents of change in their own communities, helping us to protect our natural resources.”

Applications for the 2019-2020 school year will be available in the fall. Students in grades 6 –12 from public, private and charter schools are invited to apply at kupuhawaii.org/hysc.

Read more in the May Capitol Connection newsletter.

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