Our History


Purple Maiʻa was founded by Olin Lagon, Donavan Kealoha, and Kelsey Amos in 2013. At that time the idea was simple: start a nonprofit that teaches Hawaiian kids how to code. But we quickly realized that our hopes for our keiki and our ambitions for Hawaiʻi’s people were much bigger than just coding.

We wanted to give ʻōpio the skills, mindsets, and mālama that they need to not only succeed personally but to solve problems for their communities in the 21st century. And we wanted to fundamentally change the perception that there is anything contradictory or unusual about Kanaka Maoli and other people of Hawaiʻi being excellent in areas like technology and entrepreneurship.

Those were and remain our ambitions. But you have to start small, fail fast, and keep moving.

So we started with one after school tech class at Kūlia All Stars. The next year we had classes at three locations. The next year it was too many to keep track of. And along the way we started projects that intervene for different age levels and in different subject matter. (See Our Programs.)

Purple Maiʻa has grown and keeps evolving with every new team member, idea, and experience. But the mission remains the same: to inspire and educate the next generation of culturally grounded, community serving technology makers and problem solvers.

About the name Purple Mai’a

Maiʻa means banana ma ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, and references the purple flower of the banana tree. Purple is the rarest color in nature, reminding us to seek out the “purple-ness” in our haumāna–the things that make each student rare and unique.

We are also inspired by ʻōlelo noʻeau #779, “He maiʻa ke kanaka a ka lā e hua ai,” which translated means “a man is like a banana tree on the day it bears fruit.” Figuratively speaking, one can tell what kind of person he or she is by his or her deeds.

Our History

Purple Maiʻa was founded by Olin Lagon, Donavan Kealoha, and Kelsey Amos in 2013. At that time the idea was simple: start a nonprofit that teaches Hawaiian kids how to code. But we quickly realized that our hopes for our keiki and our ambitions for Hawaiʻi’s people were much bigger than just coding.

We wanted to give ʻōpio the skills, mindsets, and mālama that they need to not only succeed personally but to solve problems for their communities in the 21st century. And we wanted to fundamentally change the perception that there is anything contradictory or unusual about Kanaka Maoli and other people of Hawaiʻi being excellent in areas like technology and entrepreneurship.

Those were and remain our ambitions. But you have to start small, fail fast, and keep moving.

So we started with one after school tech class at Kūlia All Stars. The next year we had classes at three locations. The next year it was too many to keep track of. And along the way we started projects that intervene for different age levels and in different subject matter. (See Our Programs.)

Purple Maiʻa has grown and keeps evolving with every new team member, idea, and experience. But the mission remains the same: to inspire and educate the next generation of culturally grounded, community serving technology makers and problem solvers.

About the name Purple Mai’a

Maiʻa means banana ma ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, and references the purple flower of the banana tree. Purple is the rarest color in nature, reminding us to seek out the “purple-ness” in our haumāna–the things that make each student rare and unique.

We are also inspired by ʻōlelo noʻeau #779, “He maiʻa ke kanaka a ka lā e hua ai,” which translated means “a man is like a banana tree on the day it bears fruit.” Figuratively speaking, one can tell what kind of person he or she is by his or her deeds.

Our Team

Marion Ano

Kumu

KEAHI SELHORST

Program Director

BILL EVANGELISTA

Kumu

Alec Wagner

Director, Purple Prize

Manu Mei-Singh

Kaikaina Project Manager

DAVID PICKETT

Kumu

DONAVAN KEALOHA

CO-FOUNDER, Executive Director

OLIN LAGON

CO-FOUNDER, Advisor

KELSEY AMOS

CO-FOUNDER, Director

KAMUELA ENOS

BOARD MEMBER

FOREST FRIZZELL

BOARD MEMBER

NĀPALI SOUZA

Ex-Officio BOARD MEMBER

Joe Baranowski

KUMU

Nate Nahina

Kumu

Levi Hoʻokano

Ex-Officio Board Member

MARTHA EVANS

BOARD MEMBER

BLAINE KAHOʻONEI

BOARD MEMBER

KELELA MOO

Kumu

ELENA FARDEN

Board Member

Kalei Akau

Documentarian, Purple Prize

Ashlynn Miyashiro

Designer, Kokua

Naomi Yoshida

Marketing Lead

Megan Nepshinsky

Kumu

Mike Sarmiento

Kula Director

Jacqueline Kroupa

Kumu

Victor Lee

Program Director

Albert Yee

Kokua

Louis-John Romero

Intern

MAHALO TO OUR SUPPORTERS & PARTNERS

We mahalo nui all of the generous and supportive organizations and
individuals who make it possible for Purple Mai’a to do its work.