Pandemic shutdowns led Pitzer College senior Nick Kapule ’17 to return home to Hawai‘i last spring and jump on opportunities to reinvent himself.
Along with taking up hydrofoil surfing and starting a federal contracting business, the 22-year-old launched a nonprofit, Kapule Organization, with his sister, Olivia ’15, with a mission to support the health and education of native Hawaiians. The siblings contributed their own money and received donations from local businesses and individuals to purchase 17 laptops for students who needed them for distance learning.
Rising at 6 a.m. last Christmas, the duo delivered the gift-wrapped laptops to children from Ma¯kaha to Kane‘ohe, driving an SUV loaned to them by Servco Lexus to support this effort. “I feel like this is my favorite Christmas yet, because usually on Christmas, I wake up and I’m like, ‘What did I get under the tree?’” Nick said. “This is the first time I actually went out and put others before myself, and that definitely made it a Christmas to remember. Punahou always taught me to pay it forward.”
The Kapules expect to continue the effort with an annual Christmas drive, and again reach out to the Punahou community, which Nick said is well known for stepping up when there’s a call to help. “I’m finally seeing that firsthand, with all the support I’ve gotten,” he said. “It’s awesome to see.”
Along with the nonprofit, Nick also took up a new sport during the pandemic. The former Punahou quarterback, track and basketball star had initially planned to continue his athletic career at Pitzer, while majoring in economics, but a series of concussions left him unable to continue playing football. Instead of wallowing on the sidelines, Nick decided to study abroad in Parma, Italy, for his junior year. Shortly after returning to the United States, COVID-19 began spreading, and he and other college students retreated to their hometowns.
While back in the Islands, Nick took up hydrofoiling, a niche sport that’s blown up quickly with the help of social media. The sport makes use of a board with an underwater wing that lifts the board out of the water, allowing riders to catch smaller waves. “It’s the newest evolution of surfing,” he explains. Ever the athlete, Nick’s now training for this summer’s 32-mile foiling race from Moloka‘i to O‘ahu, and he’s even garnered sponsorship from local companies.
He also started his own federal contracting company, supplying furniture, fixtures, equipment and software to military bases locally, with hopes to expand internationally. Nick said as a native Hawaiian minority-owned business, he can take advantage of programs to win federal contracts.
“Coming back home, it’s been super positive,” Nick said. “I know it’s been tough for a lot of people (due to the pandemic), but I’ve been fortunate enough to have all these opportunities come my way, including foiling and starting my nonprofit and for-profit company. I am also just grateful for all of the support Punahou has provided me and the network of people who I got to connect with.”
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