The Hawaii United Okinawa Association has recently announced the recipients of the Hui Makaala scholarship, which is given to deserving students who lead as community role models and are interested in perpetuating their Okinawan culture. The following students have been chosen to represent this year’s Hui Makaala scholarship:

Travis Nitta. (Photo courtesy of Travis Nitta)
  • Amanda Flores-Gutierrez, McKinley High School (2021), University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa
  • Kara Kanetake, Moanalua High School (2021), Linfield University
  • Cuyler Murata, Kalani High School (2020), University of Northern Texas
  • Riley Nakasone, Kalani High School (2019), University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa
  • Amanda Nitta, Kaiser High School (2019), University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa
  • Travis Nitta, Kaiser High School (2021), University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa
  • Kyra Pila, Kamehameha Schools (2019), University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa
  • Jaylyn Reyes, Castle High School (2019), University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa
  • Taylor San Juan, Kaimuki Christian School (2020), Pacific Lutheran University
  • Evan Shishido, Hawaii Baptist Academy (2021), Oregon State University
  • Cheyne Tanoue, Mililani High School (2017), Pacific University

The word “hui” means club or group in Hawaiian and “maka‘ala” means to be alert or vigilant. Combined together, Hui Makaala is a scholarship that aims to be ever aware and “serve, work and strive together.” The goals of the scholarship is also to “foster a better understanding and acceptance of the American way of life … provide social, recreational and educational activities for members and friends … (and) assist deserving students in their pursuit of higher education.”

Established in 1946, the Hui Makaala scholarship was formed by Dr. Francis Kaneshiro, Dr. Bunkichi Uesato, Clarence Uyechi, Dr. Yoshio Yamashiro, Dr. Shoyei Yamauchi, Tokuichi “Dynamite” Takushi and John Uehara. The group created their organization to help provide younger English-speaking Okinawans a sense of belonging within the community. Jan. 11, 1946, was the date of the founders and 60 members first gathered and chose the name Hui Makaala.  

In 2009, the Shinki Kuniyoshi Memorial scholarship was created to honor a former 1953 Hui Makaala scholarship recipient Shinki Kuniyoshi. Kuniyoshi’s sister Mitsuko and her husband Frank Fahnestock, of Grover Beach, California, were in the process of getting their estate in order when they decided to dedicate the scholarship in Kuniyoshi’s name. 

Valerie Kate, Hui Makaala’s second vice president, said Mitsuko Fahnestock told her over the phone that the Kuniyoshi family had struggled financially growing up and were therefore very grateful for Shinki Kuniyoshi to have been given the award. The scholarship afforded Kuniyoshi to attend the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa where he graduated in 1956 with a bachelor’s of science degree in civil engineering. Mitsuko Fahnestock told Kate she never forgot the Hui Makaala’s generous scholarship to her brother, which therefore inspired her and her husband to make the scholarship a remainder beneficiary of their trust.

This year’s Shinki Kuniyoshi Memorial scholarship recipient is Travis Nitta from Kaiser High School. Nitta started his fall semester as a freshman at the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa with a major in civil engineering. Nitta is grateful to be the recipient of the Shinki Kuniyoshi Memorial scholarship as it’s allowed him to be able to afford his room and board, along with having the conveniency of getting to and from his classes. As a novice sanshin player and shishimai performer, Nitta hopes to continue to be involved in his Okinawan culture as its always been a prevalent part of his life.

“My family hosted exchange students from Okinawa for many years up until the start of the pandemic,” said Nitta who is also hoping to minor in Japanese at UHM. “It was really cool to share our thoughts and perspectives on so many different things. Just to be able to cross that language barrier was really amazing.”

Before COVID-19 reached Hawai‘i, Nitta was planning on being an exchange student himself in Okinawa up until the trip was canceled in March. Although his senior year in high school was also challenging due to distance learning practices and trying to remain motivated while studying at home, Nitta is excited to move forward in his college studies and hopes to study abroad in Japan or visit Okinawa one day.

“I hope to continue sharing my love of my culture through volunteering and my performing arts,” said Nitta. “Culture is what connects the past and the present … It keeps our past ancestors alive but also keeps us alive, and we’re able to pass that down, and then the next generation gets to pass it down. I just think that’s really cool and important to keep our memories and culture alive.” 

For more information about the Hui Maka‘ala scholarship and the Shinki Kuniyoshi Memorial scholarship, go to www.huimakaala.org.     


On July 26, 2021, Island Insurance Foundation provided a school-supply giveaway at the Towers at Kuhio Park. Over 300 keiki residents received school supplies including backpacks, binders, crayons, notebooks, paper, rulers, glue, sticks, pencils, pens and folders. As the families within the Towers’ households have an average annual median income of $15,000 and were especially burdened by this past year’s pandemic, supplies provided by the Island Insurance Foundation — in partnership with Better Tomorrows and Michaels Management — has given the families some relief prior to the new school year.

Island Insurance workers and volunteers set up the school-supply giveaway area at the Towers at Kuhio Park. (Photos courtesy of Island Insurance Foundation)

“Things could not have gone more smoothly and efficiently,” said Dana Tokioka, president of Island Insurance Foundation, regarding the day’s success and adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols. “The Island Insurance Foundation didn’t want these families to worry about how they were going to afford school supplies for their children. By providing the school supplies before the start of school, we hoped to relieve the parents of a significant worry and help these children start the school year right and in the best position to learn.”  

This is the fifth year that Island Insurance Foundation has provided a school-supply giveaway and over 80 years of Island Insurance helping rebuild Hawai‘i’s communities. After immigrating to Hawai‘i from Japan at the age of 13, Masayuki Tokioka, the founder of Island Insurance and Dana Tokioka’s grandfather, educated his way through Hawai‘i’s public school system to prepare himself with the tools to graduate — and become the first person of Japanese ancestry to earn an MBA — from Harvard University. Masayuki Tokioka upheld his philanthropic work by providing access to affordable car, home, and business insurance options for local residents since the company’s start in 1940. Dana Tokioka states that the Island Insurance Foundation was established in 2003 to uphold her grandfather’s vision and tradition of “giving back to the community and to ensure that their non-profit partners would benefit from a consistent flow of contributions each year.”

“My grandfather was an amazing family man and an incredible businessman,” said Dana Tokioka. “What I hear most is what a great person he was … I have so many memories of him, and I am proud to lead the Foundation, knowing that his legacy of generosity continues over 80 years later.

A young resident from the Towers at Kuhio Park accepts school supplies at the Island Insurance Foundation school supply giveaway.

Masayuki Tokioka’s gratitude to Hawai‘i’s public school system has come full circle with school supply giveaways such as the Towers at Kuhio Park and the annual Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award, which is awarded every year to an outstanding public school principal whose example exemplifies a dedicated leader for their students and the community. Since its inception in 2005, the Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award has awarded over $650,000 to public school principals in recognition of their contributions and to assist their efforts in funding high-impact school projects. 

“My grandfather believed that the Hawai‘i public school system provided him with the skills and the foundation to pursue unlimited opportunities,” said Dana Tokioka who is focused on Island Insurance Foundation’s continuation of helping serve Hawai‘i’s communities. “We maintain a consistent level of giving which is generally focused on the areas of education, health services, social services and cultural preservation. We will continue to support the community as much as possible, especially during the current pandemic.”


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