Wai‘aka Initiative Progress

Thanks to generous donors, HPA helps students in need—now more than ever.

HPA launched the Wai‘aka Initiative for Financial Aid a little over one year ago, and since that time, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused economic upheaval across the globe. Financial aid has always played a critical role in keeping HPA a transformative school for students from all walks of life. Now, both new and returning families are needing assistance in even greater numbers. The Wai‘aka Initiative has never been more important than it is today.

Several generous donors recently made gifts to help push the initiative forward. Rachel (Gleed) Skeen ’02 and her husband, Andrew, believe strongly in giving back, especially at this moment. “It feels like many solutions being offered in society during this pandemic won’t enhance equity, especially in education,” Rachel explains. “We could be taking steps backward. In offering these funds, we wanted to help bridge the gap and assist students who wouldn’t be able to pursue the education they desire. We hope our contribution enables them to find that journey, just as we did.”

The Skeens chose to direct their gift to the HPA Faculty Big Island Scholarship Fund, a need-based award that aids long-standing Hawai‘i Island families, and the Kūlia Fund, which supports students from Hawai‘i and beyond with the greatest demonstrated need. By focusing on these endowed funds, the Skeens’ gift will assist students not only in the near term, but also far into the future, as part of HPA’s permanent financial aid program.

Meanwhile, two HPA parents who wish to remain anonymous made a gift that was used immediately for HPA families in jeopardy of not being able to return to school in August. Their contribution helped students from Waimea and surrounding communities to remain at HPA where they continue to shine in many roles—scholars, athletes, artists, and community leaders.

How you can help

  • Become a regular HPA Fund donor, and consider directing your gift to financial aid.

    The HPA Fund is an immediate resource that helps students every year. All gifts of all sizes have impact. When we band together, there is true strength in our numbers.

  • Consider joining the HPA Fund Leadership Circle.

    Donors to the circle help achieve HPA’s highest priorities by making leadership gifts of $25,000 or more to the HPA Fund. You can direct your leadership gift to financial aid; it will be spent immediately to help HPA students and families who would otherwise lose the opportunity of an HPA education. This kind of immediate support is urgently needed while the Academy works to build endowment resources over the longer term.

  • Establish a permanently endowed fund for financial aid.

    An endowed fund will generate resources every year as part of HPA’s permanent financial aid program. If you choose, your fund can honor someone in your family, a teacher, or another individual who is meaningful to you. Endowed fund levels start at $25,000 and rise to $250,000 or more, depending on the impact you would like to make for HPA students.

For the Tsai family, based in Taiwan, strengthening HPA financial aid has become an intergenerational project. “This belief really started with my grandpa, who was the first-generation entrepreneur in our family,” explains Douglas Tsai ’10. “From the beginning, he has given back through different channels and different foundations. We strongly believe that when one has resources, it’s important to do this, especially to the places that have helped us before, so that they can help someone else. It’s a positive cycle.” The Tsai family’s recent gift also provided immediate relief to HPA families for this current school year.


The Skeen Family

The Tsai Family

Like many Ka Makani, all these supporters share a strong belief in the power of an HPA education and its continuing role in their lives. Tsai, for example, credits HPA with influencing his passion for venture capital. “HPA planted that seed very early on,” he says. “Venture capital is all about investing in new ideas. At HPA, you meet so many people from different cultures, different places—it’s a great environment to discover new ideas.” Which is exactly what the Wai‘aka Initiative aims to sustain: a school ’ohana filled with young people from many different backgrounds, from Hawai‘i and around the world.

For the Skeens, their gift comes hand-in-hand with a feeling of reconnection. “We kind of lost touch with HPA for a while,” says Rachel. “We were busy with kids and jobs and various moves—but when we did reach a financial position to offer support, HPA was on our list. I feel that many of the good things in my life are the result of what I received from HPA. I want to give other students, especially those from the Big Island, the opportunity to have a similar experience.”

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