Pitzer Spotlights

2003-2004 Spotlight Archives

Summer Keliipio '04, Finds Advocacy Makes the Best Policy

Summer KeliipioWhen Summer Keliipio '04 was a kid, she loved the Saturday morning cartoon "Gummi Bears."

"They were ordinary bears but then they drank their Gummi Bear juice it made them powerful," the Pitzer College senior said. "For me it was about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. In the real world I see knowledge, hard work and determination as the juice. I couldn't have gotten here without working hard and having the academic experiences I have enjoyed."

Keliipio still has the juice. And she uses it in her advocacy for native Hawaiian issues on a regular basis. In fact, she will be attending the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs at Princeton University in the fall with the determination to continue the political studies she majored in at Pitzer. She plans to use the master's degree she will earn there to jump into local politics or legislation in her native Hawaii.

"To become the best I can be in public policy I am going to have to actually do public policy," she said. "I plan to work mostly in the native Hawaiian community on issues facing native Hawaiians such as the push to be federally recognized as native peoples. We are trying to forge a special relationship like the one that exists between the government and native Alaskans. There also are the same standard concerns and challenges that face other minority communities - housing, health and unemployment."

Keliipio already has a strong background in advocacy for her people. Each summer for the last three years she has gone home to work for a state agency that monitors housing issues for native Hawaiians. 

"I have always been interested in helping out my people," she said. "I am fortunate to have a strong education. My opportunity to attend Pitzer has given me the tools I need to return to help my community." 

Keliipio said the Woodrow Wilson school at Princeton will help her with her goal. She stressed that it is important for others who may be interested in the program to get started early. 

"I attended the policy institute summer program at Princeton in the summer of my junior year," she said. "It is a crash course in public policy and graduate school to help people make sure this is what they want to do. Thanks to the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) program I will be attending Princeton with a full tuition fellowship. I am not sure I would have received the fellowship without being involved in the PPIA program. If you are interested in government, the environment or health policy, then you really need to think about applying for the program because it could pay for your grad school. One of the goals of the fellowship is to get minority students involved so the people making the policy look like and empathize with the people receiving the policy." 

Keliipio came to Pitzer because she was attracted to the Claremont Colleges consortium. "I had a guidance counselor tell me about the colleges and I saw it as a financial benefit that I would be able to draw on all the colleges' resources. I also knew Pitzer would be unique in that it would enable me to grow as a person without compromising who I was. Arnaldo Rodriguez, the vice president of admission, was very inspiring. He stood up at a podium and said, 'If you know who you are but you're not exactly sure what you want to do, then Pitzer is the place for you.' I knew then it would be a place where I could grow."

While at Pitzer, Keliipio has served as the Student Senate treasurer; the Center for Asian Pacific American Students (CAPAS) co-chair 2002-03; she was a three-year Asian American sponsor and freshman mentor; she served on the Holden Hall council for three years; and she plays soccer in a women's league in La Verne.

"My most memorable experience at Pitzer is being involved in the group that got CAPAS up and running," she said. "In my sophomore year we received the Irvine Diversity grant, which made the dream of forming the organization a reality. It was our responsibility to shape and mold the center into something positive and useful for all of the students of the Claremont Colleges."

Keliipio credits her family with her success. "My mom, stepdad, my grandparents — because at the end of the day you come home as one person to these people. You are just who you are and they have to love you for it. I want to thank my older brother for beating me up a lot when I was little," she said with a grin, "because it made me strong. And my younger brother for being so cute." Again, she grinned and joked that he would be completely embarrassed.

Perhaps Keliipio should add one more element to the juice that gives her power: her family.

For more information on the Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship Program, please visit www.ppiaprogram.org.