Gift Helps LCC Students Pursue Degrees

The upstart organic farm that sends young Leeward adults to college as well as into the fields has just launched a scholarship endowment program with a $100,000 donation from a Kaneohe-based philanthropist.

Thomas J. Vincent Foundation, which has worked with MA’O Farms for the past five years, recently presented the sizable check to the Waianae farm to create an endowment for its agricultural social enterprise program. Revenue from the endowment will help MA’O to allow its interns with Leeward Community College associate degrees to pursue four-year degrees. Tom Vincent himself considers the gift as “seed” money, and he hopes other investors will follow suit, because he believes in the farm’s work and vision.

“MA’O Organic Farms provides these youths a pathway out of the economic hardship they face,” he explained, “promoting a culture of excellence, entrepreneurialism, accountability and hard work. My hope is that this investment compels my peers in the philanthropic community to join in supporting the innovative work being done out there.”

Cheryse Sana, who worked as MA’O farm co-manager while earning her degrees at LCC and UH Manoa, is eager to see how the foundation’s “seed” affects the harvest of intern leaders. “Mr. Vincent’s investment in me has helped to get me where I am at now – the first in my family to graduate with a college degree,” she said. “Now that I have shown that it can be done, it paves the way for others in my generation to do the same.”

According to its own figures, MA’O is sending 45 youths from Waianae to college as organic farmers, as of spring 2013.