5 Questions with Mileka Lincoln ’02

HPA’s favorite Emmy Award-winning alumna returns to co-host Alu Mai 2020

Mileka Lincoln ’02, and her sister, Pualani Lincoln Maielua ’01 at Alu Mai 2019.

In 2013, Mileka Lincoln ’02 joined the news team at Hawaii News Now, ultimately serving as the Sunrise reporter each morning. On May 3, 2018, she was stationed at Halema‘uma‘u Crater in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park when rock fall, ash, and smoke signaled the onset of a major eruption event. Throughout the Kīlauea eruption, Lincoln garnered praise for her sensitive and comprehensive coverage—ultimately earning an Emmy Award along with her colleagues.

Earlier this year, Lincoln stepped into a new role at HPA: Director of Marketing and Communication. She brings heavy-hitting journalistic chops to the post, and this year, she lends her stage presence and aloha to Alu Mai: a virtual event airing on Saturday, November 21 through HPA’s YouTube channel. Lincoln co-hosts the event with classmate Justin Lee ’02. In the run up to the event, we asked her a few questions about her transition into a new career, her ‘ohana, and where she keeps that Emmy. 

Mileka Lincoln hosting the 2019 Alu Mai.

You took up your post at HPA in March 2020—right at the beginning of a global pandemic.
It was quite the onboarding process. I went from a really high-energy, high-needs, high-demand job as a breaking news reporter covering crises and natural disasters, and I thought I would move home to a quiet life… but that has certainly not been the case as we navigate all of the urgent needs at an international boarding school during a pandemic of this magnitude. 

The essence of your job is sharing the stories of HPA with people near and far. What do you most enjoy about this?
I come from a storytelling ‘ohana, and I have always been especially drawn to the kinds of stories that are a reflection of who I am and the community that I come from. It’s really lovely and wonderful to be back at HPA, where my family is so integrated into the fabric of the school. My mom has worked here since 1989, all three of my siblings are alums, and my sister, Pualani teaches Hawaiian studies here now. Her three amazing boys are 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders here. Coming back to tell the story of this place is very meaningful to me. 

I am enormously thankful and will always do whatever I can to support financial aid for this school. Every gift makes a difference, so I hope people will watch. I hope they will take action. If they can’t this year because it’s been a challenging year, I hope they will give next year. And if they need help making HPA possible for their family… that’s why we’re doing this.

Did your experience as a student at HPA help propel you toward your career in journalism?
I knew exactly what I was going to do by the time I was in 6th or 7th grade: I wanted to be a newspaper journalist. My 7th grade teacher, Mrs. Bleecher, gave me so much confidence in my writing. She taught me that being a good storyteller means you have to be a good listener, a good reader, a good writer, and she made me feel like it was cool to have a passion and to work toward it. I was a huge nerd, though. I actually used to volunteer to restock the shelves in the library during recess so that I would know when the good books were available. 

You’re co-hosting this year’s Alu Mai with your classmate Justin Lee! What does this event mean to you?
It’s so incredibly important to me and my ‘ohana… I don’t know how else a local family like ours that grew up Homestead — even with two incredibly hard-working parents could afford an HPA education for four children. It was a dream that came true for our family because of the generosity of those who give to HPA. I am enormously thankful and will always do whatever I can to support financial aid for this school. Every gift makes a difference, so I hope people will watch. I hope they will take action. If they can’t this year because it’s been a challenging year, I hope they will give next year. And if they need help making HPA possible for their family… that’s why we’re doing this.

I have to ask… do you sleep with your Emmy?
Nobody believes me when I tell them this, but I don’t know where my Emmy is. At one point it was under my bed, but I moved, and I just don’t know where it is. I need to find it and give it to my mom and dad. You can’t keep it in your office… there’s no great place for it in my home. It was incredibly humbling to be honored in that way, but mostly, it was a symbol to me of the grit and resilience of the people of Puna, and how lovely and beautiful and generous they are. When I think about that Emmy and that time, I think of them.