Today marks the end of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and we’re wrapping up our profiles of proud AAPI scholars with 2020 Tillman Scholar Jeffrey Laupola. Jeff is a proud Pacific Islander who was compelled to join the Navy following the tragic events of 9/11. At Annapolis, Jeff developed quickly as a leader and fighter among his peers. He finished his time at the U.S. Naval Academy as one of 30 company commanders, leading more than 4,000 officer candidates and as an undefeated national collegiate heavyweight boxing champion.
Jeff’s passion for his community has led him to pursue his M.B.A. so that he may better create solutions to housing, infrastructure, and energy challenges in Hawaii. He has co-authored reports contributing to a proposed $275 million infrastructure investment in the 2020 Hawaii state legislative session. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jeff also co-founded the non-profit Every1ne Hawaii, partnering with Hawaiian Airlines to charter a plane from China with more than one million face masks to freely distribute to the people of Hawaii.
We asked Jeff to share a few thoughts on what AAPI Heritage Month meant to him:
“I am a proud product of Hawaii composed of a few ethnicities: Samoan, Hawaiian, Portuguese, Irish, and German. Wherever I go, I strive to be an ‘Ambassador of Aloha’ by respectfully representing my culture, community, and family.
Every year, AAPI Heritage Month means to me an opportunity to showcase parts of the AAPI culture with others. This has translated to leading a Polynesian Haka onboard a deployed Navy ship, enjoying Hawaiian cuisine at luau’s at many colleges, and wearing and giving lei’s to classmates at a commencement ceremony for graduate school in New York City.
I am grateful to be part of the AAPI community and enjoy sharing my culture and learning about other cultures. Celebrating and sharing our unique cultural characteristics like AAPI is a joy that all should experience. AAPI Heritage Month is an excellent opportunity to do so.”