South Pacific Islander Organization

College Mentorship Program



  1. Increase Pacific Islander access to higher education.

  2. Inspire Pacific Islander scholars to define and live a meaningful, successful life rooted in community and culture through personalized one-on-one mentorship. 


Confident Pacific Islander scholars achieving their dreams.

Theory of Change

When we train graduated Pacific Islander (PI) professionals to be encouraging, supportive mentors/role models to PI middle school and high school students, when we provide students the tools and resources to learn about their educational and career options, and when we allow students to define what success means to them, PI students will have a healthy relationship with education, will have a deep sense of leadership, purpose and empowerment, and are more likely to live a meaningful, successful life rooted in community and culture. 


  • Increased resources for PIs in academic and professional fields. 

  • Increased PI representation in higher education. 

  • Increased PI representation across academic and professional fields.

Who we serve

  • High school seniors

  • Low-income, first-generation and/or Pacific Islanders (Polynesian, Micronesian and Melanesian)

  • Students interested in gaining mentorship from a Pacific Islander college student or professional

Who are our mentors

Our mentors are Pacific Islander college students and professionals who want to share their college experience and knowledge with younger students.

Mentorship perks

  • A personalized college and career action plan

  • Support throughout the college and scholarship application process

  • Access to Pacific Islander mentors and professionals

Join our mentorship Pilot program

Launching September 2019


Our Design Team



Kaitlyn Makana'akua Basnett, MSN, RN | Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) at Stanford Children's

Katy was born and raised in Southern California to a Kanaka Maoli mother from Kalihi. Katy is passionate about empowering youth (but especially pacific islander youth) to pursue their passions while prioritizing their own health and happiness. She received her bachelor's degree in Human Biology with an emphasis on Child Development and Disease in 2015 from Stanford University and just graduated from the University of California, San Francisco with her Master's in Nursing. She is starting her first position as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Stanford Children's as part of the Pediatric Neurosurgery Team. She is a member of Stanford Nurse Alumnae, the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.


Nikki Deville | Ph.D. Candidate in Public Health at University of California, Irvine

Nikki DeVille is Chamorro and Kanaka Maoli and was fortunate to spend time growing up in both Guam and Hawai’i. Her upbringing greatly impacted her desire to pursue a career in academia as a professor and researcher working towards reducing health disparities in Pacific Islander and other historically disadvantaged or vulnerable populations.  She received her B.A. in International Relations from Stanford University in 2012 and her M.P.H. with a specialization in Epidemiology from University of Hawai’i at Manoa in 2014. Nikki is currently completing her Ph.D. in Public Health at University of California, Irvine (UCI) and will start an Environmental Epidemiology Postdoctoral Fellowship at Brigham & Women’s Hospital/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in September 2019. During her time at UCI, she collaborated with Director of Undergraduate Education to develop an initiative called Empowering Students for Success in Public Health, which provides discipline-specific programming focused on academic success and personal and professional development for first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented minority undergraduate students affiliated with our department.

Teyonna Jarman.JPG

Teyonna Jarman | Chief of Staff Cherry Technologies

Teyonna currently hails from the Bay but is a SoCal girl at heart. Born and raised as a military brat, she's lived all over the world. Teyonna graduated from Stanford University with a B.S. in Product Design, and is currently working at Cherry, a FinTech startup in San Francisco. As both a proud Black woman and a proud American Samoan, she has a deep appreciation for cultural preservation and diverse cultural representation. SPIO's mission is near and dear to her heart and she's excited to join the 2019 Mentorship Design Team!


Elaona Lupetu'ulelei Lemoto Tongilava

Elaona's parents immigrated from Tonga to Los Angeles, where she was born. She is currently a rising senior at Smith College majoring in Economics and Statistical and Data Science. Her love for learning transpired throughout her upbringing and came in the form of three women; two of her aunties and her grandmother. These three women, along with the rest of her family, pushed her tremendously throughout her middle and high school years, with the freedom of becoming who she wanted to become; which is now an Economist. This form of mentorship was instrumental to her growth and what she leans on daily to keep going. Outside of her studies, she is the Co-founder and President of Pasifika Student Association at Smith where she and her family there strive to make a space for Pasifika folks and advocate for their rights. She is also a programming tutor for the Statistics department as well as the Economics liaison helping to bring and mentor more students into the Economics field. Recently, she graduated from the American Economic Association Summer Program and was awarded the Janet Yellen Mentorship and Citizenship award for her work in mentoring students in and outside the field.


Dr Méré Tari Sovick | Executive Director of Melanesian Women Today Organization

Born in Vanuatu, in the small village of Lavatu on the northern island of Pentecost where she grew up, to the capital city of Vanuatu, Port Vila, to a boarding school in New Zealand, and on a Maori Marae, her work as a journalist, Peace Corp Vanuatu language trainer, and U.S. student, has culminated in her becoming the first female doctorate degree holder from Vanuatu to graduate from the U.S. Dr. Tari Sovick is also the first from Vanuatu and a Ni-Vanuatu woman to found and run a nonprofit organization, Melanesian Women Today Organization, in the U.S. As an international Business researcher, she is passionate about making a difference and sees herself as an agent of change.


Daniel Tonga | Financial Analyst at Carta, Inc.

Daniel was born and raised in Kansas City, MO. He takes pride in his rich ethnic and cultural heritage, with family roots from the islands of Tonga, Hawai'i, and Puerto Rico. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Utah and currently works as a financial analyst for a fintech startup called Carta. Professionally, Daniel is passionate about all things startup, VC, finance, and tech. Recreationally, he enjoys playing guitar and ukulele and learned to play music in the house band that played music for his family's Polynesian entertainment group. Daniel is also passionate about mentoring and paying it forward and has volunteered as an after school tutor and ESL teacher for organizations such as the Refugee and Immigrant Center - Asian Association of Utah and Provo Youth Mentoring. Daniel served a 2-year volunteer mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and currently lives in Utah with his wife, Mindi.

Design Team Co-Leads

Marushka Raimere Hirshon (Co-Lead)  See  Board of Directors  bio.

Marushka Raimere Hirshon (Co-Lead)

See Board of Directors bio.

MichaeLynn Kanichy (Co-Lead)  See  Board of Directors  bio.

MichaeLynn Kanichy (Co-Lead)

See Board of Directors bio.