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Our Story


"In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity."
- Albert Einstein

`A`ALI`I Mentoring (AM) germinated when long-time friends Cathy Ching and Grace Saturnia reconnected hiking on Wiliwilinui Ridge in December 2020. Their conversation not only covered updates on family and friends, but also challenges faced by the next generation exacerbated by the pandemic. Having recently been laid off as a school counselor, Cathy shared her dream of starting a mentoring nonprofit. Grace shared her experience during the pandemic as a volunteer college essay coach for isolated seniors who were at home studying remotely. Following their hike, Cathy and Grace set out to explore the idea of a nonprofit serving young people. 

Months of research and meetings with various educators, school administrators, leaders in the nonprofit community, and most importantly, young people, validated the idea that a mentoring nonprofit would fill a need in the community. They learned that young people, especially those from underserved communities who lack access to resources and opportunities, could benefit from an empathetic and non-judgmental adult. These mentors could serve as a resource, advocate, and occasional “nudger,” helping them persevere in higher education. In-person mentoring experiences can also play an impactful role in a young adult's life given the isolation and disconnection caused by the pandemic.
Inspired by their own mentoring experiences, Cathy and Grace firmly believe that mentoring is transformative and mutually beneficial for the mentee and mentor. The crises of the pandemic, a job termination, and a need in the community created a great opportunity: establishing `A`ALI`I Mentoring, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supporting young adults from underserved communities in Hawaii persist in higher education and beyond.


Cathy and Grace chose the `a`ali`i as the namesake of their mentoring organization because this hardy native plant possesses qualities they see in `A`ALI`I Mentees. `A`ali`i, revered for its resilience and beauty, are known for thriving in adverse conditions and in a variety of elevations and environments. AM's goal is for `A`ALI`I Mentees to embody the strength of the `a`ali`i, confident in their ability to thrive. 


Now in its third year, AM’s in-person program includes one-to-one mentoring and group cohort workshops covering relevant topics such as personal finance, career exploration and readiness, and interpersonal skills supporting young people on their life journey.  

Following the successful launch of two cohorts in 2021 and 2022, the third cohort, known as AM3, is the largest to date, with 18 Mentees and 18 Mentors in the 10-month core program. In addition, in the fall of 2023, AM launched Alumni Meet Ups, quarterly gatherings for Mentees and Mentors who have completed the core program. The main purpose of Alumni Meet Ups is to maintain engagement:  to help keep Mentees stay connected with each other and the Mentor network and to continue building our `A`ALI`I Mentoring ohana.

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