There were many forces working in tandem to bring the Luke Center for Public Service to life in 2004 – including dedicated community members, supportive School leadership and the generosity of the Luke family.



“Every day is inspirational,” says Luke Center Director Dani Goddard. “We never know who is going to pop in with an amazing idea, and students really take the reins on their projects. It’s great to walk alongside them to provide support to make their big ideas happen.”

The Luke Center has stood as a beacon, connecting students with meaningful volunteer opportunities, offering mentorship, providing access to valuable resources and advancing the development of skills essential for service-learning projects. The staff also extends guidance to faculty members, supporting them in seamlessly integrating service into their curricula.

Over the decades, thousands of Punahou students have actively participated in Luke projects. Many have gone on to dedicate their careers to service, a testament to the transformative power of these experiences. 

“Students are really the driving force behind this important work,” says President Mike Latham ’86. “They understand the enormous challenges we face in the world today, but they also recognize and embrace their kuleana to take action and create positive change.” 

Punahou’s commitment to create positive change through public service stretches back to the 1980s, with the introduction of a “Community Service” program in the Academy. In the 1990s, this commitment continued to be advanced by former President Jim Scott’s ’70 mantra that “to whom much is given, much is expected.” 

Despite this success, there was no centralized hub from which to harness the community’s energy or build momentum for scale. Then, in 2004, with support from the Luke family, the Luke Center for Public Service opened its doors.

Bryan Luke ’93 (left) with his father Warren K.K. Luke ’62, Trustee Emeritus.

The inception of Luke Center marked a turning point in Punahou’s long tradition of being an independent school with a public purpose. “The Center helped to bring the pieces of the puzzle together,” says Bryan Luke ’93, president and CEO of Hawaii National Bank. “It refined and focused resources to move our community forward with service at the center.”

When students come to the Center with project ideas, staff guides them through the process of identifying the needs that their idea seeks to address, how to articulate appropriate solutions and what community organizations they might connect with. This year alone, the Center organized the Food Drive for Hawai‘i Foodbank and the Aloha United Way for Maui initiative – each event rallying approximately 4,000 participants. 

“The Center helped to bring the pieces of the puzzle together. It refined and focused resources to move our community forward with service at the center.”

— Bryan Luke ’93
President and CEO, Hawaii National Bank

“We wanted to affect students’ thinking and their contributions to the community,” says Warren K.K. Luke ’62, Trustee Emeritus who was instrumental in the establishment of the Center. “It is not just about monetary contributions – service is really about how to interact with people and how you treat people overall.”

There have been many highlights over the last 20 years, but seeing the entire School engaged in large-scale service might be the most rewarding. “That was not something that we expected would be automatic,” Bryan says. “The way in which the entire campus and the entire Punahou community has embraced service over the last 20 years has been inspiring.” He credits students with being the lifeblood of the Center.

In March, Punahou Academy students participated in a hands-on service learning project on the North Shore, enjoying the fresh air while reinvigorating Hawai‘i’s unique ecosystem. The project, organized by the Luke Center for Public Service, was in support of Plant a Tree, a non-profit that strives to restore local lands and forests. The students engaged in a variety of activities to propagate the growth of native and indigenous plants in place of invasive species.

“I am always amazed with their observations and insights. They may see something in the news that inspires them to take action.”

— Dani Goddard
Director, Luke Center for Public Service

Throughout its history, Luke Center has supported a wide variety of service learning projects; including tutoring students at local schools, caring for the ‘āina and transforming a baby car into a motorized wheelchair trainer for children with cerebral palsy.

Carole Iacovelli, the Center’s first director, aimed to place students at the heart of service learning, highlighting that public service extends beyond fundraising or political pursuits. At its core, service learning brings academic content to life through hands-on experiences – whether it is tutoring at a local school, participating in a food drive or caring for the environment. It is a potent hands-on mechanism that has been shown to bolster civic engagement, build empathy and expand problem-solving skills among those who practice it.

The vibrant experiences also foster strong collaborative connections – and many lasting memories. “It was definitely a bustling place,” says Carri Morgan, who spent 14 years at the Center as assistant director and then director. “There was always lots of energy and lots of passion, lots of laughter.”

Over time, the Center’s mission also began to encompass social entrepreneurship, sustainability and student leadership. Today, when students identify a problem, they often feel empowered to develop the solution themselves.

Koko Leong ’24 played tennis for years without realizing that 125 million used tennis balls end up in United States landfills annually. And their negative impact continues beyond just taking up space – each ball takes 400 years to decompose, further harming the environment. 

“Once I learned about the problem, I had to figure out a solution,” says Leong, who plays on Punahou’s Boys Varsity II tennis team and is a Luke Leader. The Luke Leaders program is a yearly cohort of about 50 to 60 Academy students who work on individual and group service-learning projects with mentorship from Center staff. 

His solution is Ho‘omau, a recycling initiative he created two years ago with a group of high school tennis players from various independent schools in Hawai‘i. With guidance from the Center, Leong and his project partners have recycled over 6,500 tennis balls, decreasing waste and making a positive impact on the environment.

Similarly, Kyla Nakashima ’25, another Luke Leader, launched Buddy Club, a mentoring initiative to support students in public elementary schools. The program has been well received. Through the semester, Nakashima and other project mentors saw positive relationships develop and, once they had been established, no one wanted them to end. With guidance from the Center, she structured her program in a way that ensures lasting relationships and support for both mentors and mentees.

Luke Center has always sought to meet students where they are, and where they are today is a generation with unprecedented access to global information and powerful online communication tools.

Before the immediacy of social media, getting students to develop an understanding of complex social, political and environmental issues required more classroom instruction. But in this age of digital technology, students already come to the Center with an understanding of broader problems in a way that wasn’t seen in previous generations. “I am always amazed with their observations and insights,” Goddard says. “They may see something in the news that inspires them to take action.”

Shortly after the Ukrainian conflict began, a group of students came to Luke Center with an idea to send books to students in a town affected by the war. “Not only did they have a strong grasp on what was happening from a geopolitical perspective, but they had also begun to develop relationships through Zoom conversations with students in Ukraine and had heard their first-hand stories of how the conflict was impacting them,” Goddard recalls. “The group moved to action, raising funds to send donated books to their destroyed library. When I was in school, I didn’t have that kind of opportunity to make personal contact and garner such an understanding of the plight of kids so far away.”

Of course, immediate access to information also carries greater responsibility – particularly as more projects reach into new communities and cultures. “Another part of our job is to help students develop a sense of context,” says Goddard. She emphasizes the point that service starts at home. “You don’t know where you’re going if you don’t understand where you came from,” she says.

The Luke Center staff helps students develop an understanding of their strengths and unique perspective prior to entering into a new community to be of service. It’s a turn toward culturally-sensitive, place-based service, where a student learns to take into account the unique features of the community they seek to serve, working to incorporate that knowledge into their projects.

Luke Center continues to seek innovative ways to honor students that have demonstrated deep involvement in their communities, including project work that has occurred at and beyond Punahou. Students who have chosen to devote their personal time and energy to work in the community can apply for a Distinction in Public Service. Luke Center faculty Angie Dolan explains that, “the Distinction process is an invitation for students to reflect on community engagement projects that have clearly been meaningful to them over the course of their time at Punahou, and to develop a thoughtful portfolio that articulates that work.”

The Center’s commitment goes beyond mentorship and logistical help, with students able to apply for project seed funding through the Punahou Innovation Fund. “Some projects have developed to the point where they require financial backing to move forward,” Goddard says. “We don’t want projects that have the potential to make a big difference in communities to hit roadblocks solely due to a student’s financial constraints.” 

Some of the projects that have received funding include development of a solar-powered community refrigerator, building beds for animals at the Humane Society and developing native-plant science kits for preschoolers around the island.

As the Luke Center for Public Service positions itself for the next 20 years, continuing to build partnerships and foster interdisciplinary experiences will be essential. 

Recently, the Luke Center and Punahou’s Kuaihelani Center for ‘Ike Hawai‘i developed a senior capstone program known as Ke Kilohana.

Dani Goddard (left) and Angie Dolan.

Academy faculty members from various departments worked together to design all Ke Kilohana classes and experiences – with service at the Center. This collaborative program uses a place-based framework to cultivate a sense of belonging and builds skills so students develop sensitive ways to engage with communities. This integration ensures that service becomes a key part of the overall student experience at Punahou.

As Punahou’s commitment to positive change continues, the Luke Center remains a steadfast pillar, cultivating a new generation of socially responsible citizens. And, with the School’s new mission statement, which evokes an ethos of service – our home to dream and discover our purpose and kuleana to Hawai‘i and the world –  Luke Center will continue to be a vibrant part of Punahou’s community for years to come. “The best part about working at Luke Center is looking forward to the inspiration of tomorrow,” Goddard says.

Whether it is raising public awareness about challenges in our community or helping with shelter projects at Habitat for Humanity, Luke Leaders are always ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

By Gina Gelber

The genesis of Luke Center for Public Service began with lofty dreams on a rustic picnic bench in the Chapel’s courtyard. “Students would gather there to discuss their service projects because there was no formal space for them to meet,” says Chandra Hanlin ’84 Peters, administrative coordinator. Over time, the students aspired to have dedicated infrastructure to support their service initiatives. It may have seemed like pie in the sky dreams at the time, but it would soon turn into reality. 

Momentum grew, propelled by the inspirational voices of service-minded students, and – with the support of caring leadership, then-president Jim Scott ’70 and the Luke family – the Luke Center for Public Service came to fruition in 2004. Since then, the Center has been a haven for students to receive mentoring, coordinate service projects and host guests – harnessing a network dedicated to doing good.

“The Center was an outgrowth of big-idea thinking from our students,” says Peters. “Without them, we would not be where we are today.” Known affectionately as Aunty Chandra, she has witnessed the power of service touching the lives of hundreds of students during the 15 years she has been with the Center. “It isn’t unusual to hear back from students who have graduated from college and decided that they want to dedicate their careers to helping others,” she says. “It is remarkable that all of these years later, they are still answering the call for service.”

The 11 Puns profiled in this section of the Bulletin share cherished memories of their time at Luke Center. Not only do they highlight the role the Center played in igniting their passion for helping others, but also how their work at the Center was instrumental in boosting self-confidence, developing an entrepreneurial mindset, and securing pragmatic professional skills. They also express a deep sense of gratitude to their Luke mentors throughout the years for helping them feel nurtured, challenged and encouraged to chase their dreams – regardless of the magnitude or complexity of those pursuits. 

Chandra Hanlin ’84 Peters

Peters hopes the can-do spirit of service continues to manifest in the lives of future generations of Luke students. “It is moving to know former students are finding big and small ways to incorporate service into their lives,” she says. “These kids came to us with big ideas and put a lot of work into their projects – I am humbled and honored to have played even a small part in their journey.”

Luke Center facilitated a sense of possibility, paired with the how-to guidance which served as a key foundation to help me dream and understand how to turn ideas into reality.

Jacqueline Chang ’07 Scanlan 

Director, Pre-Service and Regional Team Initiatives, Teach For America – Hawai‘i

When I think back to my work at Luke Center, a few things stand out. I remember what a privilege it was to be part of a group imagining the new physical space of a Luke Center – and dreaming about how it would be used to do so much good. Secondly, I think back to the sustainability work we did on campus. I believe we established the Sustainability Fair which still exists today!

The Center was a hub for a community of young people, who cared about giving back, to come together – it also served as a gathering place for supplies, food and toy drives. One of the highlights was being able to meet then Senator Barack Obama ’79 when he visited campus.

Luke Center embodied President Jim Scott’s ’70 mantra that to whom much is given, much is expected. Luke Center facilitated a sense of possibility, paired with the how-to guidance which served as a key foundation to help me dream and understand how to turn ideas into reality.

This aspiration towards service stuck with me through college and shaped how I spent my time outside of the classroom, towards a hope for making the world a better place. It also informed my career path – I decided to join Teach For America – Hawai‘i and returned home to teach at Campbell High School after graduation. I believe deeply in the power of coalition and community when working to fight inequity.

I began teaching 9th grade math as a special educator eventually becoming the Special Education department head at Campbell High School. After that, I transitioned into a staff role at Teach For America-Hawai‘i where I worked to recruit more homegrown leaders and educators into our classrooms. Nowadays, I am still part of Teach For America – Hawai‘i, leading the work of welcoming and training all new educators coming in through our program focused on partnering with our most under-resourced schools across O‘ahu and Hawai‘i Island. I’m also a mom of two, including a first grader at Punahou and working to instill that same sense of community, service and kuleana in them.

D Dangaran ’11

Director of Gender Justice, Rights Behind Bars

The Luke Center for Public Service shaped my early values and aspirations to have a career in public interest. I was a Luke Leader from sixth grade through graduation. Our themes in those early days were Hunger and Homelessness, Alternative Gift Giving, Advancing Literacy and Environmental Stewardship.

My work at Luke was rewarding and diverse. I participated in service-learning retreats and attended a weekly service hour where I helped with making posters for campus-wide initiatives. I was also on the planning team for the first Sustainability Fair, and I helped with food and book drives. Much of my time in the Academy was spent rallying people to get involved in community service, including serving food at Institute for Human Services shelters; participating in beach clean-ups; and attending fundraiser walk-a-thons.

The Luke Center’s service-learning ethos taught me that there were many ways to make a difference; and that a volunteer gives – as well as receives – when they do service. I have learned so much from service throughout my career; it has never been a one-way street. I’ve done public interest work in public health, special education, children’s theater, student services, diversity and inclusion, legal services, houselessness, disability justice, prisoners’ rights and LGBTQ rights. I’ve worked on these issues in Singapore, South Africa and across the United States. Through it all, I’ve remained dedicated to collaboratively moving towards a better society. I know, without a doubt, that the Center’s amazing staff – which we affectionally called the Luke Center Aunties – had all to do with my dedication to making the world a better place.

I’m now a lawyer-activist based in D.C. with cases across the country. As the director of Gender Justice at Rights Behind Bars, I litigate against prisons, jails and immigration detention centers, working to challenge the cruel and inhumane conditions of confinement in the U.S. I specialize in using litigation and other forms of advocacy to help trans incarcerated people access necessary gender-affirming care.

I also currently serve as the co-chair of the National Trans Bar Association. In that role, I plan conference sessions and organize and support trans lawyers across the country.

I’m currently working on an essay in the Harvard Law Review Forum on disability justice, abolitionist queer theory, and claims brought under the Americans with Disability Act by people with gender dysphoria.

I know, without a doubt, that the Center’s amazing staff – which we affectionately called the Luke Center Aunties – had all to do with my dedication to making the world a better place.

Ryan Catalani ’11 

Executive Director, Family Promise of Hawaiʻi 

Through the Luke Center, I helped to create the Local KINE Film Festival in 2009. KINE, which stands for “Kids Imagining New Enterprises,” was a collaboration with other students, including Kevin Lee ’11, Jonathan Santiago ’11, and Matt Shimura ’15. 

The film festival was open to all students, grades K – 12 – the first event of its kind on campus, as far as we knew at the time. Students were invited to create short films with the theme “What Sustains You?” Selected entries were screened in conjunction with the Sustainability Fair, and a panel of professional filmmakers –  Edgy Lee ’69, Chris Lee, Kim Bassford ’95, and Scott Mason ’90 – chose several films to recognize at the Awards Night. I also participated in other projects organized through the Luke Center, including LEAF (Leaving Earth A Future), a restaurant sustainability initiative; Let’s ROCK (Recognize Our Community’s Kūpuna), which captured elders’ life stories; and Sense of Story, a filmmaking workshop series.

The Luke Center provided some of my most formative experiences at Punahou, which have had a lasting influence throughout my work. The Center helped me connect the dots among my various interests – like public service, storytelling, and entrepreneurship – and provided a supportive place for me to explore my ideas. Mentors at the Luke Center also provided me with a lens of social entrepreneurship – using creative enterprise to solve community challenges.

I gained more confidence to take risks and try new things, and it also gave me some of my first exposure to skills like fundraising, marketing and community engagement, which I have used throughout my career. That spirit of social entrepreneurship also led me to co-found two organizations: Bookzingo, an online textbook exchange startup, with fellow alumni Melanie Feldman ’07, Matt Feldman ’10 and George Tang ’10; and Mobility Movilidad, a nonprofit that used art and storytelling to change narratives around immigration and displacement, which, in a full-circle moment, brought a group of Colombian artists to exhibit their work at Punahou’s Kirsch Gallery in 2015. I have kept in touch with the Center throughout the years, working to engage student volunteers in my work, and most recently as a presenter for their speaker series on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in 2022 and 2023.

I gained more confidence to take risks and try new things, and it also gave me some of my first exposure to skills like fundraising, marketing and community engagement, which I have used throughout my career.

I currently serve as executive director of Family Promise of Hawai‘i, a nonprofit working to end homelessness for families with children. Founded in 2005, Family Promise of Hawai‘i has served over 6,000 children, parents and family members through its holistic, compassionate and effective programs, including temporary housing, rental assistance, case management and other wraparound services. An estimated one in 30 young children in Hawai‘i experience homelessness annually, and the need for Family Promise’s services only increased during the pandemic. Since joining Family Promise of Hawai‘i in 2022, much of my attention has been dedicated to helping the organization expand to serve more families. 

As a young person, it was transformative to have my ideas taken seriously and to be given support while still having the responsibility to make them happen through working together with others.

Elena Hoffenberg ’12 

Graduate Student, University of Chicago 

The Luke Center provided me with opportunities to work closely with others to develop and implement programs under a rubric of social entrepreneurship. I remember the excitement around DoBands – rubber bracelets meant to inspire the wearer to do something good and then pass it on to continue the chain – especially within our group of student social entrepreneurs eager to try out this idea. Connections through the Luke Center and support from the Center’s staff also made it possible for me to work with the organization Kanu Hawaii to bring together students and legislators to share perspectives on current issues at the “Pizza and Politics” event held at the Hawai‘i State Legislature.

While examples of leading through service could be found across Punahou’s campus, it was at the Luke Center that I found the most encouragement to think about how that ideal could be put into practice. As a young person, it was transformative to have my ideas taken seriously and to be given support while still having the responsibility to make them happen through working together with others. This ethos of resilience and collaboration has guided my own trajectory as an educator and as a researcher who studies how people have thought about and made change in the past.

I decided to pursue the study of history out of a passion for research and solving the puzzles of how people think about their communities in different places and in different times. I now live in Chicago, where I am a graduate student focusing on modern Jewish history and hoping to continue this work of research and teaching when I finish my degree. My research focuses on the period between the First and Second World War in Eastern Europe, where local and national communities encountered new political and economic conditions and attempted to plan for their individual and collective futures. Although Lake Michigan is not nearly as large as the Pacific Ocean, it is wonderful to live close to the water!

Alayna Kobayashi ’14 

Senior Producer, NBCUniversal 

I am grateful for all of the resources, mentorship and support I received at the Luke Center for Public Service. One of my favorite projects was creating a short documentary about the Hawai‘i Foodbank entitled “The Journey of the Can.” This video aimed to help students to understand the importance of donating to Punahou’s canned food drive. Through the experience of making this video, the Luke Center was a great support in helping me to use my passion for filmmaking in a way that raises awareness of the issue of hunger in Hawai‘i and hopefully inspires students to donate. My time at Punahou was greatly influenced by the positivity, support, knowledge, guidance and aloha I received from the Luke Center – it is a place to feel good and do good.

The Luke Center instilled within me at a young age the importance of prioritizing service. Being a Luke Leader taught me how to incorporate volunteer work into my weekly routine and helped me to understand important issues in the community. This regular practice of service is something that I have carried into adulthood and has significantly enhanced my life.

I’m currently a Senior Producer at NBCUniversal where I produce, project manage and edit commercials for NBC and Telemundo. I also mentor a high school student through Minds Matter Southern California, and I am on the leadership committee for NBCUniversal’s MyAbilities SoCal DE&I group. The Luke Center for Public Service taught me the importance of contributing to my community and caring for others.

My time at Punahou was greatly influenced by the positivity, support, knowledge, guidance and aloha I received from the Luke Center – it is a place to feel good and do good.

The Luke Center, and the people within it, taught me so much that I truly feel like I’d be a different person without them.

Alexis Sanehisa ’19 

Software Engineer, Yext 

During my years at Punahou, I spent a significant amount of time at the Luke Center for Public Service. There would always be a variety of projects going on with lots of help from all of “the Aunties” as well as the community. The most memorable projects I participated in at the Luke Center were running a mini-carnival at the Institute for Human Services (IHS), as well as helping reestablish the Sustainability Fair at Punahou. 

I spent a pivotal part of my teenage years working with the Luke Center and it has certainly impacted who I am today. The Luke Center is where I learned how to communicate, ideate and progress. I practiced countless soft competencies such as time-management, critical thinking, and delegation. We honed other important skills, including how to write formal emails, how to problem-solve, and how to just get things done. The Luke Center, and the people within it, taught me so much that I truly feel like I’d be a different person without them. I don’t know if I could have nurtured the same level of empathy and understanding I have now.

I graduated from college in 2023 and started a new software engineer job. The job is not necessarily community oriented, but it certainly implements the basic skills I learned over my time at Luke. I’ve always enjoyed working with computers and doing logical problem solving. I’m living on the East Coast and am hoping to connect with the community here. So far, I have enjoyed volunteering and working with animals and will likely find more opportunities to do things I enjoy as I spend more time here and meet more people. I do try to keep up with what the Punahou community and the Luke Center have done recently as well! It’s always amazing to see what the younger classes are accomplishing.

Liam Lynch ’21

Undergraduate Student, Pomona College 

I worked on the annual Sustainability Fair over my four years in the Academy. First taking a small role and learning from the more experienced students. The following year, as a sophomore, I took on a more substantial amount of responsibility. When I was a junior, COVID-19 hit shortly before we had the opportunity to have an in-person Sustainability Fair. I worked with the Luke Center and Sustainability Fair participants to take the fair online. We thought it was important to keep the fair going because even if we couldn’t have the full impact of the in-person event, it would be valuable to remind people that there are steps they can take to preserve the planet. I am glad that we were able to pivot forward and relieved to see that the Sustainability Fair is now back in-person at full strength!

I think one of the most inspiring aspects of working at the Luke Center was getting to work with so many talented, passionate people. As a high schooler, it is a gratifying experience to be able to work with adults like Dani Goddard and Chandra Hanlin ’84 Peters who simultaneously mentored us and engaged with our ideas. It’s valuable at that age to be treated as a person with genuine aspirations. We certainly needed help reaching those goals, and that help was provided in a non-patronizing manner, which I found really motivating. Also, I made a lot of friendships with classmates who had similar passions for the environment. These people definitely helped shape me in these formative years and always pushed me to try a little harder.

I am currently a junior at Pomona College in California, where I am majoring in Economics and minoring in biology. I am working on learning more about natural resource and energy management from both an economic and ecological perspective, which I hope can help me act as a holistic environmentalist. I have also done some research into affordable housing in Hawai‘i, another very important concern locally. There are quite a few ties between affordable housing and environmental concerns in Hawai‘i. Many issues seem to exacerbate others, which is why I want to keep learning as much as I can on these topics and hopefully work toward a solution that does the most good for people and the planet. 

I made a lot of friendships with classmates who had similar passions for the environment. These people definitely helped shape me in these formative years and always pushed me to try a little harder.

My time at the Luke Center profoundly influenced my personal and professional trajectory. The guidance I received there instilled in me a deep sense of social justice and heightened awareness of societal disparities.

Ken Nakatsu ’22 

Undergraduate Student, Emory University 

At the Luke Center, I led a project focused on the experiences of houseless veterans. I organized an art exhibit at Punahou School, showcasing their narratives. Alongside this project, I conducted “talk story” sessions with 12 veterans, using their accounts to create a video about houselessness with the help of U.S. Vets. This video was later utilized by educational entities in Atlanta. Additionally, I connected a veteran to journalist Noe Tanigawa, expanding the reach of their story. The project combined art and firsthand narratives to raise awareness about houseless veterans.

My time at the Luke Center profoundly influenced my personal and professional trajectory. The guidance I received there instilled in me a deep sense of social justice and heightened awareness of societal disparities. While the projects I spearheaded were rewarding they also illuminated the limitations of isolated commendable acts in creating lasting social change. This realization catalyzed a shift in my approach. Today, I’m driven to harness the power of mathematics and data science as tools for social justice. By integrating my Luke Center experiences with quantitative disciplines, I aim to devise more impactful, sustainable solutions to systemic challenges. The Center taught me not just to acknowledge injustices, but to actively seek innovative methods to address them.

Currently, I’m interested in computational biology which I am able to explore further in tandem with the John A. Burns School of Medicine. Our team is exploring potential sources of disparity in lung cancer and the rare childhood brain cancer, medulloblastoma. Alongside this research, I’m pursuing my undergraduate studies at Emory University, majoring in Applied Mathematics and Statistics. The rigorous academic environment at Emory provides a solid foundation that complements my research endeavors. In addition to my academic and research commitments, I’m gearing up for a challenging professional journey in the field of actuarial science. My days are a blend of academic rigor, interesting research and professional preparation, all driven by a passion for leveraging mathematics and statistics for meaningful impact.

Rachel Waggoner ’23 

Undergraduate Student, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

My experience at the Luke Center for Public Service showed me that every passion you have, academic or otherwise, can be applied to service. And when you connect that passion to service, you end up with an experience that becomes much more gratifying and memorable – and you learn more while doing it.

I earned a Distinction in Public Service through my work with Straub Medical Center cardiothoracic surgeons; I updated their surgery documents for different literacy levels and, in collaboration with the engineering department for my Senior Capstone project, printed 3D models of human hearts for education. I also completed a vaccination research project in which I did a deep dive into the science, ethics and controversy of vaccination, which was particularly pertinent during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other work I completed for my Public Service Distinction included three years (and counting!) of service with Teens Teach Technology, an international youth organization teaching tech to older adults, volunteering with Kaiser Permanente Medical Group, and designing, building, and presenting a solar-powered train at Punahou Carnival with my Engineering IV class.

While getting my Distinction, I discovered that my passion for service lies in educating others, especially young kids. Providing a support system for them to further their learning in whatever passions they may have is what inspired me to keep working on my projects. The Luke Center showed me that if you focus on the heart of what you are doing – the communities you are impacting, the people whose lives you are going to improve – your imagination kicks in even more, and your work is much more powerful. Having this wisdom as I work in the engineering and technology career field will be invaluable.

I am pursuing my undergraduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, most likely majoring in mechanical engineering (with a potential focus on aerospace/astronautical engineering or biomedical engineering). After graduating, if all goes according to plan, I will commission into the United States Space Force to work as an engineer, which will be a unique and high-tech application of the skills I am learning.

When you connect that passion to service, you end up with an experience that becomes much more gratifying and memorable.

Aunty Dani, Aunty Angie and Aunty Chandra empowered me to reach for a galaxy when I thought my potential was limited to one star.

Emiko Uohara ’23 

Undergraduate Student, University of San Francisco 

Noe Ando ’23, my first friend at Punahou School, and I had a vision: to empower young social media users. Our mission was to cultivate confidence and responsibility among middle school students establishing their presence in the digital world. “What advice would you give your younger self?” We used this guiding question to inspire our curriculum and create a safe space for engagement. We designed lessons, activities and discussion questions to share with around 400 students in workshops, assemblies and advisories. For example, Noe and I designed a slideshow of social media profiles for students to analyze. They would note the suspicious signs in a user and decide how they would handle an interaction with them. We loved watching students get excited to sort these profiles and apply the critical thinking skills they’ve developed.

The Luke Center was an incubator for my dreams. I brought in my wildest ideas and watched them hatch and thrive. This was a safe space for me to bring my passions to life and nurture my leadership skills. The Luke Center equipped me to be proactive in my communities and seek possibilities wherever I go. Aunty Dani, Aunty Angie and Aunty Chandra empowered me to reach for a galaxy when I thought my potential was limited to one star.

I’m studying chemistry and child development as a first-year student at the University of San Francisco. I’ll begin researching ATP-binding cassette transporters with a professor in my second semester and work with a local pediatrician over the summer. I’m on the pre-medicine track and accepted a position as the Outreach and Service Chair for USF’s Women in Pre-Med Society. I also accepted a fellowship with the Magis Emerging Leadership Program and will be creating a San Francisco-based community project in the spring. Finally, I work with the student government as the Sustainability Chair to invest a fund of $68,000 into sustainable projects on campus. Overall, the theme for my university experience is chemistry, health and sustainability.

Ava Pakravan ’24 

Academy Student 

Punahou has facilitated my passion for civic engagement through the Luke Center for Public Service, which has given me extensive mentorship and connected me with platforms internally, and externally, that have made my work possible.

Mental illness is a rampant societal problem plaguing Hawai‘i’s youth. My home-state faces stratospheric rates of medical trauma and the fourth highest rate of homelessness nationally – because of this, Hawai‘i’s youth experience problems with mental health repeatedly. Art2Wellness was founded to not only raise awareness about this crisis but to ultimately cultivate a tangible solution for Hawai‘i’s youth. We provide Hawai‘i’s children with pre-packaged art kits, empowering videos from certified therapists, student-created art lessons, and hopeful, caring cards through our Art Pals program. We have donated more than 1,000 art kits, garnered more than 7,400 views, raised $12,000, and rallied over 150 volunteers from various grades around our mission. Our goal is to mitigate the effects of mental illness through access to the arts as a therapeutic outlet for expression.

Punahou has provided me with a vast range of resources and an incredible support team. I had the privilege of learning about civic engagement and public service from wonderful mentors and was able to apply this skill set as I embarked on my own mission of engaging with my community. Working with Mrs. Goddard, I’ve learned ways to transform my ideas into tangible solutions, catalyzing societal transformations in Hawai‘i.

Just recently, we have self-published a student-made coloring book, titled “Wellness Coloring Book: For Youth, by Youth,” via Amazon, and the proceeds fund Art2Wellness. I am currently working on raising awareness about this book. My project also earned a Case Accelerator for Student Entrepreneurship Distinction in September. Additionally, we donated art kits to the Maui Wildfire Relief effort. We are also working on expanding Art2Wellness to more institutions across Hawai‘i and beyond.

Looking to the future, I want to pursue a degree in sociology to deepen my understanding of civic engagement through rigorous academic research. Ultimately, I aspire to continue working at the grass-roots level to better my home-state of Hawai‘i.

I’ve learned ways to transform my ideas into tangible solutions, catalyzing societal transformations in Hawai‘i.

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.