OUR MISSION

To promote social justice by engaging Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities through culturally relevant advocacy, research, and development

OUR VISION

EPIC strives for the empowerment of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities

Our Board

Sefa Aina

Board Chair

Sefa headshot

The 8th of 9 children born to parents from the US (colonial) Territory of American Samoa, Sefa was a first-generation low-income college student at UCLA.  As an undergraduate at UCLA, Sefa became actively engaged in the struggle to create access to education opportunities for Pacific Islander youth in Inglewood, Carson, Compton and Long Beach.  This program today, PIER (Pacific Island Education and Retention), has institutional support from UCLA and has been a constant in the struggle to educate overlooked and underserved Pacific Islander youth for nearly two decades.

Sefa is currently the Associate Dean and Director of the Asian American Resource Center at Pomona College.  Professionally, he has served as an academic and student-organizational advisor, as well as an instructor for Asian American Studies programs at UCLA and California State University, Fullerton.  Sefa has taught courses in contemporary Pacific Islander issues, community engagement, and has done countless workshops and talks at colleges and universities throughout the country.

Sefa has helped to establish leadership pipelines that allow for Pacific Islander college students to build their own résumés through internship and fellowship opportunities in Washington DC, California and Hawaii.  He has utilized his expansive network to help build the capacity of the larger Asian American and Pacific Islander community.  He is a lifelong educator with a commitment to creating transformative experiential learning opportunities for students.

In the community, Sefa served on the advisory boards of the PIHCP (Pacific Islander Health Careers PIPELINE) Project, NHPI (Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander) Alliance for Health, Pacific Islander Cancer Control Network (PICCN) Samoan Community Advisory Board, and The AIGA (All Islands Getting Along) Foundation.  Sefa is also a founding member of NPIEN (National Pacific Islander Educators Network) and the UCLA PIER Project.

In September of 2010, Sefa was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.  Sefa served as the Vice-Chair of the Commission from 2010 – 2014. He has also been a Reader for the APIASF (Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund), and AIGCS (American Indian Graduate Center Scholars) Gates Millennium Scholarship.  Through his work on college campuses and in the larger community, Sefa has demonstrated his commitment to increasing the support and opportunities for non-traditional, marginalized, first generation students.

Sefa graduated from UCLA with a BA in History and has begun the UCLA MA program in Asian American Studies.

Keith Castro

Board Member

Keith Castro headshot

Keith has been involved in community work with Asian and Pacific Islanders for over ten years. In addition to community work, he mentors Pacific Islander high school and college students. He has worked with UCLA’s PIER program at Long Beach Poly High School, was a mentee for the PIHCP (Pacific Islander Health Careers PIPELINE) Project and EPIC Scholars. He worked for the 2010 Census working with Pacific Islander communities and assisting with Pacific Islander Complete Count Committees to ensure accurate counts. He is still involved and works with other organizations and has provided recommendations for the upcoming 2020 Census.

Keith was a Member-at-Large for the The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON) board and a Trustee for Pacific American Community Cultural Center. Keith is also a National Pacific American Leadership Institute and Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership Fellow.

Keith received a B.S. in Computer Informations Systems and an M.B.A. He is also a founding board member of EPIC and is currently teaching Chamorro language classes with the Kutturan Chamorro Foundation.

Natasha Saelua

Board Member

Natasha Saelua-headshot

Natasha Saelua is a doctoral student in higher education at Indiana University, Bloomington and also works as a project associate at the National Survey of Student Engagement. She received her master’s degree in Asian American Studies from UCLA, and her bachelor’s degree in history also at UCLA. Prior to IU, she served as associate director at the Community Programs Office at UCLA, supervising administrative and advising staff and conducting departmental evaluation. She has also worked as a community advocate for Pacific Islander and Asian American/Pacific Islander education policy at the local, state and national level, with a focus on educational attainment for Pacific Islander high school and college students. She is married to Myles Siufanua, and they have one daughter, Maya.

Karalee Vaughn

Board Member

Karalee Vaughn headshot
Karalee Mahealani Chieko Vaughn is currently the Executive Director of the Southern California Tribal Education Institute.  She’s instrumentally helped Tribes and Indigenous communities develop their own education codes, education plans, policies and culturally relevant curricula. Additionally, in her current position, she has helped with the creation of a graduate fellowship for Indigenous students cultivating research geared to help resolve issues inflicting Indigenous communities. Prior to serving as the Executive Director or the Southern California Tribal Education Institute, Karalee has served as an Executive Director of an Upward Bound grant focused on helping first generation, low-income and marginalized high school students enter the higher education pipeline. In addition, she served as the Assistant Director of the San Manuel Education Department, where she helped to author the San Manuel Education code, educational policies, and helped in the creation of the San Manuel Learning Resource Center, which provided Tribal members with access to culturally relevant services such as: tutoring, academic skills building, academic counseling, and instruction of the Serrano language. Additionally, she has served as a grant administrator of Po’ina Nalu at the Native Hawaiian Student Resource Center at Honolulu Community College. Also, at UCLA,Karalee served as Director of Outreach for the Pacific Islander Education and Retention Program.  She has consulted on various projects for Native Hawaiian and Indigenous agencies, non-profits and also served on various boards.  
 
 
Karalee received a bachelor’s in History and Asian American Studies at UCLA.  Additionally she holds a Master’s in Federal Indian Law and Policy from American Indian Studies at UCLA and a Master’s in Education, Policy and Management from Harvard.  Her latest area of research includes Tribal Endowment Agreements with Higher Education Institutions and the programs, services and pipelines it creates with Tribal Communities and Higher Education Institutions.  She and her partner, Christopher Duro, have three daughters, which keeps them motivated to improve access to higher education, the development of culturally relevant education and curricula, the continued efforts for Indigenous language revitalization; and the creation and production of Indigenous knowledge.

Kehaulani Vaughn

Board Member

Kehau headshot

Kēhaulani Natsuko Vaughn is a visiting professor in Asian American Studies and the Assistant Director of the Asian American Resource Center at Pomona College. She is currently a doctoral candidate in Ethnic Studies at the University of California at Riverside. Her educational background includes a bachelor or arts in American Studies from Occidental College and master’s degrees from UCLA in higher Education and Asian American Studies. Her current research explores Pacific Island Studies, Indigenous epistemologies, Indigenous education, and decolonial practices and pedagogies. She has taught numerous college courses including: Pacific Islander Education, Race and Ethnicity in the United States, Indigeneity in Hawai’i, Asian American Studies, Native American Studies and Research Methodology.

Before returning for her doctorate, Kēhaulani worked professionally at UCLA as an Academic Advisor for undergraduate and graduate students and also coordinated a federally-funded Student Support Services program. She has been involved with educational access, outreach, and retention over the past several years both professionally and voluntarily amongst underrepresented, first generation college students and families. She is a nationally recognized speaker and scholar on higher education and Pacific Islander education and consults for numerous organizations including the Gates Millennium Scholarship Fund, Asian Pacific American Scholarship Fund and OCA. Her passion around higher educational access especially amongst Pacific Islanders and other Indigenous communities led her to become a co-founder and current board member of Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC). Working with others in EPIC, she developed and facilitated the EPIC Scholars program, which was a culturally relevant leadership development program that addressed the retention and persistence of Pacific Islander college students. Given the success of EPIC Scholars, EPIC was able to receive a grant for staff and programmatic funding that enabled the development of the Pacific Islander Leaders of Tomorrow (PILOT) program.

Some facts about our Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Communities:

1.2 Million

NHPI Residing in the U.S. as of 2010

30%

growth in NHPI owned businesses between 2002 and 2007

1 in 8

NHPI are veterans