Alina Fa'aola | Mentoring Pacific Islander Students Through the Oakland Pacific Islander Network
Alina Fa’aola, born and raised in Los Angeles and of Samoan and Mexican descent, talks about her academic journey and her passion for cultivating leaders in a new program, Oakland Pacific Islander Network. Through this initiative, she hopes to help young Pacific Islander students in Oakland develop their leadership skills.
Tell us about your background and where you grew up.
My family is from American Samoa, but I was born and raised in Los Angeles in a small town called Hacienda Heights. I’m actually 3 quarters Samoan and 1 quarter Mexican. My mother’s family (Alagata) is from A’oloau American Samoa and my father’s family (Fa’aola/Vaioli) is from Aasu & Amaluia. All my family is still out there, and we try to go back as much as possible.
How was your high school and college experience?
I was one of only 5 Pacific Islanders at Los Altos High School - and one of those Pacific Islanders was my brother. I played a lot of volleyball from 6th thru 12th grade and got a scholarship to play at a college in Louisiana. Unfortunately, due to a change in leadership, all scholarship recipients lost their scholarships. I ended up going to Mount San Antonio College for a few years. I was there aimlessly looking for something that was meaningful to me. That’s when I met my mentors who recruited me to attend the School of Urban Missions Bible College & Theological Seminary. There, I felt a sense of purpose and guidance surrounded by a meaningful community. During college, I was hired as the Head Volleyball coach & later the Pacific Islander Care Manager at Castlemont High School in Oakland, CA. That’s where I met Pacific Islander students and knew I wanted to continue working with them.
You are now working with the Oakland Unified School District on a community initiative called Oakland Pacific Islander Network (OPIN). What does OPIN do?
OPIN’s mission is to build and cultivate effective leaders. Growing up, I realized that there wasn’t an organization that helped Pacific Islander students cultivate their natural leadership abilities. So OPIN is a place for middle school students in Oakland to get mentored. This year, I’m starting a leadership mentorship group with 8-10 students who really want to become leaders. I want to help them learn about themselves, find their purpose and give them resources. In the future, I hope to expand these programs for our community.
What advice do you have for Pacific Islander students preparing for college?
Put yourself in places where you are challenged, surround yourself with a healthy community that will love and empower you, and most importantly, prioritize your relationship with Jesus.
Want to learn more about OPIN? Follow @OAKPIN on Instagram and Facebook
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