Lester Kaneta’s formative years were spent in Manoa, where he spent his childhood chasing crayfish and swordtails in the idyllic valley just minutes from downtown Honolulu. After graduating from Roosevelt High School, he left Hawai’i to attend the University of Southern California. His career in international business took him around the globe, wherein he witnessed firsthand, the devastation of extreme poverty.
Marian Kaneta, a career nurse, had seen similar hardships faced by those in lower socioeconomic classes. Together Marian and Lester vowed to do whatever they could to help those most at risk for a difficult life, due to economic disadvantage, including lack of education, lack of financial literacy, lack of peer support, and other hardships.
Indeed, the Kanetas wanted to do more than just provide basic survival needs. They wanted to help people of all ages reach for their dreams. To do this, they would help others to break the cycle of poverty by providing educational assistance and customized services designed to help students overcome challenges and obstacles that may otherwise prevent them from obtaining the training and skills necessary to create a brighter future.
The Kaneta Foundation, a private family philanthropy, was born from these goals. They partnered with the Kapiolani Community College and the University of Hawaii Foundation to launch the private-public Lunalilo Scholars Program.
The Lunalilo Scholars Project is based on four pillars of success: academic achievement, peer mentoring, career planning, and financial literacy. Together, they provide a strong foundation upon which the scholars will continue to build as they create their bright futures.
Over the past two decades, the Kaneta Foundation has awarded millions in scholarships, providing more than 1,000 students, ranging from age 17-53 with 360-degree support while attending college.