As a reserved kindergartner, Esther Chan ’24 could never have imagined that being an advocate for the vulnerable would become part of her Punahou journey. Now in the 11th grade, Chan has found her passion as a fearless guardian of senior citizens against cybercrime. It is a cause that hits close to home for Chan, as both of her grandmothers have been victims of online scams.
Through her evolution, Chan has learned about inner strength, resilience and overcoming challenges. In the process, she has also caught the eye of Prudential Financial, one of the largest financial services providers in the world.
It started in spring 2021, when Chan took a cybersecurity class for young women through CompuGirls Hawaii, a program educating high school girls in STEM, cybersecurity and information technology. Her findings were startling: By 2025, global cybercrime costs may reach $10.5 trillion annually. In response, while completing her Girl Scout Gold Award, Chan started the Cyber Safe Seniors Initiative (www.gocybersafe.org), a series of educational tools designed to promote cybersecurity among our kūpuna.
For her work, she earned the Prudential Emerging Visionaries distinction in 2022. The program awards 25 youths across the nation making a positive impact in the areas of financial and societal challenges.
In addition to winning $5,000, she received an all-expense-paid trip to the annual inaugural award summit in New Jersey that took place April 23 – 26. The event gave her the opportunity to meet with fellow visionaries and to hear an inspiring talk from football legend, Eli Manning.
Chan says there were many times when creating her online class felt daunting – but overcoming her shyness and persevering through the unexpected has been an invaluable experience. “One thing that will definitely stick with me is to take risks and get outside of your comfort zone. The whole project was a risk for me. I learned so much about sticking with it and putting up with the challenges and working through them.”
Dean Jonathan Koshiba ’94 believes her perspective has contributed to her success. “Her positive attitude allows her to see challenges not as work but something she likes to do,” he says. “She’s pretty unique in the way that she looks at things.”
Chan’s dedication to her work is steadfast – she continues to improve her website and tweak her curriculum in response to feedback that she’s received from residents at One Kalakaua Senior Living and The Plaza at Waikiki as well as members of AARP Hawaii and the Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center. Some of the educational tools she has created include videos, lessons, quizzes and interactive activities. She’s hoping to expand her team to continue making more progress in this area.
Chan is also pursuing other interests. This summer she’s taking a creative writing course, doing research at University of Hawai‘i in meteorology, working on her music for The Royal Conservatory of Music and attending the Yale Young Global Scholars program online. This is in addition to her Cyber Safe Seniors project. Chan is happy to move forward with her cause, “Seeing my community grow and helping others lead a better life is gratifying and it motivates me,” she says. It’s not a burden but something I enjoy doing on the side. It brings me a lot of happiness.”
– By Brandi-Ann Uyemura