The Mamoru and Aiko Takitani Foundation, named after the issei businessman from Yamaguchi and his wife – who met and wed on Maui then together co-founded Hawaiian Host chocolates in Kaimukī – donated funds to 59 college-bound students across Hawai‘i, for a total of $218,000 in scholarships. The latest wave of Takitani Foundation moneys, allocated so that high-school seniors from all over the state might attend mainland and other universities, ups the total amount distributed to local students over the past 27 years to $2 million. This year, the moneys will fund three students from Kaua‘i, nine from Maui County, 11 from Hawai‘i island, and 36 from O‘ahu.
The Foundation designed its financial distribution so that practically every school in the islands benefited from this largesse. Qualifying DOE public schools and private schools each selected an outstanding graduating senior from their institution to receive $2,000 from the Takitanis. Among this group of winners, an additional $3,000 scholarship went to one student from each school district, amounting this year to a total of 45 district-based scholarships for high-school seniors from Hawai‘i island, Maui County, Kaua‘i, Honolulu, central O‘ahu, leeward O‘ahu, windward O‘ahu, the Hawai‘i Association of Independent Schools, and Hawai‘i Catholic schools. (Schools of less than 100 enrollees from grades nine through 12 sometimes must group their candidates with students from other small institutions to be considered for one of two $2,000 high-school-based scholarships.) For a list of the $3,000 district-based awardees, see http://takitanifoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/2020-Legacy-Scholars-Press-Release-FINAL.pdf.
At the top levels of recognition, larger $5,000 awards went to eight District Finalists: Amira Fisher (‘Aiea), Isabelle Pescaia (Waialua), Sarah Lewis (Campbell), Cade Sugiyama (Pearl City), Breanna Taguchi (Maui), Maeha Piturachsatit (Kapa‘a), Serah Matsunaga (Hawai‘i Baptist), Sarah Barrientos (Damien). Two Directors’ Award recipients each won $6,000: Tammy Lam (Farrington) and Amanda Schiff (Kealakehe on Hawai‘i island). Finally, the three most prestigious Takitani scholarships recognized Aaron Chang (Punahou), who received the $10,000 Mamoru Takitani Outstanding Student Award to attend Rice University in Texas; Jenny Pang (Roosevelt), who got the Aiko Takitani Outstanding Student Award to attend Princeton Universitiy; and to Micah Willweber (Kalaheo), who earned the Karen Uno Distinguished Student Award to attend Concordia University in Nebraska.
Students interested in applying for these funds in their senior year of high school should check takitanifoundation.org/for-students/, especially in the fall, as scholarship application materials will be posted around late November. Applications are usually due in early February.
In these economically tough times, such broad-based giving traditions might start to dwindle, as older generations of wealthy Japanese and Okinawans have passed on. These philanthropic practices once thrived among issei and nisei businesspeople such as the Fukunagas of Servco (servco.com/giving-back/scholarships/), who, having reached high levels of postwar economic success, chose to “pay it forward” to local high-school students regardless of their national origins or ethnic backgrounds. In today’s less financially secure age, the Takitanis continue to feed our students’ dreams by helping them offset rising mainland tuition costs. According to the Foundation website (hawaiianhost.com/foundation/), “A portion of the proceeds from every Hawaiian Host product goes to sponsor the Mamoru and Aiko Takitani Foundation and its student scholarship program.” So remember to buy some Hawaiian Host next time you see a chocolate mac-nut sale!