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SAIO 50 for 50: SPIO

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This Week's Spotlight:  SPIO


The South Pacific Islander Organization was founded in 2018 by Marushka Hirshon (Tahitian), MichaeLynn Kanichy (Makah, Pohnpeian), Eldred “JR” Lesansee (Pueblo of Jemez, Zuni) and Cady Ching, SPIO is a cohort of students, educators, influencers and entrepreneurs interested in providing growth opportunities, educational resources, and financial aid to the Pacific Islander (PI) community. Their efforts include a mentorship program pairing PI students applying for trade school, university, or college with mentors that have been through the process, academic, extra-curricular, and community leadership scholarships, spotlights, and a virtual summit and higher education network for PI scholars and educators that are set to launch this year.

MichaeLynn Kanichy ('14, Science, Technology, and Society)

MichaeLynn Kanichy

Kanichy is a Social Marketing and Public Education Specialist for the Hi•dasubač Initiative, a prevention team dedicated to support Makah youth and achieving success through mental, spiritual, physical and emotional balance. Kanichy is also a member of her younger brother’s commercial fishing crew, a role she took on to better understand how 80% of her community support their families. She is the first Makah woman to graduate from Stanford and is pursuing her master’s degree in Education for School Counseling at Seattle University.

Marushka Hirshon ('14, Science, Technology, and Society)

Marushka Hirshon

Hirshon is Head of Social Impact and Entrepreneurship for Smart Oceania, a consulting agency helping Pacific entrepreneurs expand their business to U.S. markets, and a co-founder of Kultura, a digital magazine that highlights members of the international creative community. She has also served as Admission Counselor for Diversity Outreach & External Relations in Stanford’s Office of Undergraduate Admission and worked as a Solutions Consultant for Oracle.

JR Lesansee ('14, International Relations)

JR Lesansee

Lesansee is a Policy Analyst for the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department, working directly under the cabinet secretary to lead the state's policy and programmatic work related to COVID-19 tribal response, cultural heritage, economic development, and mental/behavioral health. Prior to this post, Lesansee completed his master's degree in International Development from the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris in Paris, France as a Fulbright Scholar. There, Lesansee researched the illicit sale of Indigneous cultural heritage in France's art world, which led to internships at the U.S. Embassy in Paris and UNESCO's World Heritage Centre.

Cady Ching ('14, Human Biology, Native American Studies)

Cady Ching

Ching is the Executive Director/Principal of Summit Prep. She has also served as Director of Human Resources for Summit Public Schools, teacher-coach, biology and AP Environmental Science teacher, and mentor. In addition to her work in public education, she has worked with a literacy project in Hawaii, an academic and cultural summer program on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation in Idaho, and a residential program teaching science to Native American high school students in South Dakota. 

SPIO's Interview