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Polynesian Voyaging Society announces new COO and staff : Maui Now

Blaine Kahoonei (middle) has been named COO; Justyn Ah Chong (right) has joined PVS as Media Content Director; and Jonah Apo (left) has been named Associate Development Coordinator.

As the global mission of the Polynesian Voyaging Society continues to grow, the organization is expanding its team, recently hiring a new Chief Operations Officer and two additional staff members.

Blaine Kahoonei has been named COO and will collaborate with CEO and Pwo Navigator Nainoa Thompson to provide strategic leadership for PVS. Kahoonei’s responsibility as COO is to operationalize the organization’s vision, mobilize resources, assess risks, create systems, organize workflow, oversee plans, report progress and assure accountability. 

Kahoonei brings more than 20 years of leadership experience in technology startups, most notably at Salesforce, a then pre-IPO and now successful global enterprise software company.

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As a volunteer, Kahoonei shares insights and guidance on the technology industry with the Hawaiʻi business community including serving as a lead mentor at Blue Startups Hawaiʻi. He also consults with tech and non-tech businesses on growth strategies implementing practices taken from his experience in the high growth, fast-paced tech industry.  

Justyn Ah Chong has joined PVS as Media Content Director and is leading the chronicling and archiving of PVS storytelling.  He is responsible for producing, shooting, and editing stories across all media formats and is leading the effort to develop a media archives and repository for PVS. 

Ah Chong is an Emmy-award winning Native Hawaiian filmmaker from Mililani, Oʻahu, a graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, and a 2020 Nia Tero 4th World Fellow. 

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From 2011 to 2018 Justyn worked as a cinematographer and editor at the ʻŌiwi Television Network, Hawaiʻi’s first indigenous broadcast station.

In 2019 his directorial debut narrative short Down On The Sidewalk in Waikiki screened at festivals around the world, winning several best short film awards. He also worked as a producer on award-winning narrative shorts Hawaiian Soul and E Mālama Pono Willy Boy.

Following this, Justyn directed the short documentary Pili Ka Moʻo, which screened at numerous film festivals, and garnered an Emmy award at the 2023 San Francisco-Northern California Regional Emmy Awards.

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Jonah Apo has been named Associate Development Coordinator and is responsible for expanding and managing donor, membership, and merchandising systems.

Apo works closely with the PVS Advancement Committee on strategic planning for organizational fundraising, to include identification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of all corporate sponsors, donors, and partners as well as merchandising and membership.

Apo first became involved with PVS in 2016 as a Hōkūleʻa crewmember and apprentice navigator while in high school at Kamehameha Schools. 

He graduated from Tufts University in 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering.  While studying at Tufts, Apo founded the first student organization for Indigenous students.

Most recently he was a Management Intern for Arizona State University’s Social Advancement department.  He is currently earning a Master of Business Administration degree at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

Source: Maui News

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