OHA and KUPU Help With Conservation

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Kupu, Hawai‘i’s leading conservation and youth education nonprofit organization, today announced a grant award totaling $413,243 that will support the Native Hawaiian communities on Hawaiʻi Island, Kauaʻi, Maui, and Molokaʻi through the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) 2021-2022 COVID-19 Response Grant. The grant will help to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Native Hawaiian ‘ohana and communities. 

With an award of $140,088 for Hawaiʻi Island, $84,336 for Kauaʻi, $140,088 for Maui, and $48,731 for Molokaʻi, Kupu will provide rigorous, entry-level employment opportunities for Native Hawaiian early and developing professionals (17 years or older) who want to commit to a career in conservation through its Conservation Leadership Development Program. Native Hawaiians possess skills and knowledge that are ideally suited for conservation careers, however, most paid positions are currently held by non-Hawaiians. Drawing from more than a decade of experience running programs of this nature, Kupu will address the barriers to entry that limit Native Hawaiian access to these kinds of jobs.

“This partnership gets Native Hawaiian future leaders working today as many ʻohana struggle to recover from the COVID-19 economic downturn,” says Kupu CEO John Leong. “All of Hawaiʻi will benefit from the opportunities these young people will be given to apply their knowledge and love of the ʻāina to positions that we hope will become their careers.” 

The purpose of the COVID-19 Response Grant is to serve the Native Hawaiian lāhui in alignment with the strategic foundations, directions, and outcomes of OHA’s 15-year Mana i Mauli Ola Strategic Plan. 


Kupu has trained more than 5,000 youth and adults in conservation, sustainability, and environmental education. For their service, Kupu has presented $6.3 million in education awards to support the continued growth of its members. In recent years, 40-50 percent of Kupu program graduates secured long-term employment immediately after the program. During the last alumni survey, 88 percent indicated they were employed or working toward a green career. To date, Kupu has generated more than $153 million in economic benefits to the state of Hawai‘i.


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