Philanthropy: Paying It Forward
Presented by Hawai‘i Community Foundation: Your name doesn’t have to be Zuckerberg or Rockefeller to leave a legacy. When it comes to sending kids to college, Jon and Eleyne Fia are betting big on Hawai‘i’s future.
THE FIA FAMILY PICTURED LEFT TO RIGHT: LUKE, ELEYNE, JON, AND RAIDEN.
The Fias are a typical local family–hard workers raising their kids and planning for the future. When they set up their trust, they first took care of their kids then set aside funds to establish scholarships at Waipahu and Campbell high schools. As public school educators – Jon at Waipahu and Eleyne at Campbell – they’ve seen the power of college. Eleyne remembers the angry boy who’d been taken from his parents. “I’d look at him and think, if I don’t help him, who will?” That young man went on to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy and become a Navy Seal. “When you want to give up and walk away,” she said, “that’s when you know you have to help.”
Jon recalls the educators who motivated him to become the first in his family to attend college, playing football to get there. Now he’s paying it forward. “Simple actions can have such a huge impact on someone’s life,” he says, remembering the football player whose highlight tape he walked into UH’s coaching office. “We convinced him to walk on, worked with him to get tutoring and get his scores up.” That young man graduated from UH as the Rainbow Warrior’s captain and MVP. “It changed his life.”
When Eleyne started at Campbell in the mid 1990s, “Students didn’t believe they could go to college,” she said. “They’d say ‘college is for the other kids, not us.’” Back then, ten percent of Campbell students went to college; today, it’s sixty percent. Jon and Eleyne are quick to deflect credit, pointing to the other teachers, principals, and counselors who challenge and motivate these kids. “There’s great stuff going on in these schools,” Jon said.
Setting up the fund at Hawai‘i Community Foundation was an easy decision for the Fias, ensuring more kids just like their students have a shot at college for years to come. “I didn’t know what a legacy donor was,” Jon laughed, reflecting on their gift continuing on beyond their lifetime. “You don’t have to be Bill Gates to give. Something small can make a big difference.”
Over 200 families like the Fias have named HCF in their estate plans to invest in the future of Hawai‘i and ensure that their charitable legacy will