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Meet our Mentors

During our programs we invite mentors to come and spend time with our students.  They are passionate community members paving the way to a better tomorrow. 

Meli James

Serial Entrepreneur & Innovator

Serial entrepreneur and innovator Meli James is a cofounder at Mana Up, a Hawai'i-based initiative designed to build the state’s next generation of CEOs in the retail and food product industry. Mana Up hosts a 12-week accelerator program offered biannually to enable Hawaiʻi product entrepreneurs to scale their businesses.


Additionally, she is president of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association, an organization that seeks to foster entrepreneurial development through education, networking, and access to capital.


Previously, James was the head of new ventures at Sultan Ventures and the program director of XLR8UH, the University of Hawaiʻi’s (UH’s) nationally recognized venture accelerator focused on mentoring and investing in UH-affiliated innovations. 


Born and raised in Honolulu, James lived in Silicon Valley for more than 10 years where she co-founded and contributed to numerous start-ups in the Bay Area and Honolulu, including Nirvino, which was a #1 ranked wine app, an Apple Platform Top 100 App, & Top Ten Lifestyles App during its time.

James is a founding member of the Startup Paradise initiative helping to build a thriving startup community that nurtures collaboration and innovation in Hawaii. She is committed to establishing resources to grow talent and high-growth ideas.


In 2016, she was recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of five Women to Watch. In 2017, she was recognized again by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of eight Women Leaders Who Are Disrupting Entrepreneurship.


James is a graduate of and Entrepreneur in Residence at Cornell University.

Lisa Bennett Matkin

Yoga and Meditation Therapist

Lisa Bennett Matkin, is a yoga therapist who has been teaching yoga and meditation for close to 25 years. She is passionate about healing, and deepening our connection to our own authentic nature and to the beauty of the Nature that surrounds us. She is known to many through her appearance on the Yoga Zone TV shows and their line of videos. She was the co-director of the Mind Body Therapy Department at Health, a complementary Health Care Center in NYC founded by Dr. William Fair of Memorial Sloan Kettering. She has served on the faculty of the Omega Institute and Kripalu Center. Currently she teaches classes, workshops and trainings around the world. She is on the faculty of The Tracking Project, a not for profit organization which teaches young people nature awareness and survival skills and the honoring of indigenous wisdom. Lisa’s therapeutic teaching style finds inspiration from her own life challenges and experiences, which she shares generously from her heart and spirit to guide others to reconnect with their own uniqueness.

Henk Rogers

Entrepreneur & Founder of Blue Planet Foundation

As Blue Planet Foundation’s principal and visionary philanthropist, Henk Rogers is committed to the mission of stewarding the environment through developing non-carbon, clean energy sources. He is personally devoted to helping our planet reduce and eventually eliminate its dependence on fossil fuels.


Mr. Rogers is also renowned as a global leader in the gaming industry. One of his software companies holds the exclusive intellectual property rights to Tetris, the world’s most popular video game (over 125 million units sold). Rogers revolutionized the industry when he brought the now legendary game to U.S. and world markets almost two decades ago.


In the 1980s, Rogers’ groundbreaking work in Japan’s then-fledgling computer game industry led to the development of Japan’s first-ever Role Playing Game (RPG), Black Onyx (published by Bullet-Proof Software); he is known in Japan as “the father of RPG.” Henk’s reach has also greatly influenced the hand-held game systems market via his facilitation of one of the industry’s most fruitful partnerships, between Tetris and Nintendo’s Game Boy—more than 35 million units of the game have been sold through this marriage alone.


Raised in Holland until age 11, Rogers attended New York City’s specialized school for mathematics, science and technology, Stuyvesant High School. He went on to study computer science at the University of Hawaii. He currently resides in Hawaii.

John Stokes

Founder at The Tracking Project

John Stokes, founder & Director of The Tracking Project, Inc. in Corrales, New Mexico, is a well-known musician, performer, writer and teacher of tracking. Since 1980 he has worked and traveled extensively in his efforts to bring awareness of the natural world and the integrity of indigenous peoples to interested people around the world.

Born in Lakewood, Ohio (1952), he spent much of his early life on the Gulf coast of Florida. He graduated from Princeton University (B.A. 1974). After college, John worked as an assistant to the Senior Editor at the Beacon Press from 1975 – 1977, generating new titles in the area of social awareness.


From l978 – l984, he taught language and music skills at Tauondi, Inc. (formerly known as the Aboriginal Community College) in Adelaide, South Australia. Work with this community – initiated college dedicated to Aboriginal self-management brought him in contact with tribal, rural and urban Aboriginals from communities around Australia. His involvement with Aboriginal land rights causes introduced him to the global indigenous network.


Through friendships with traditional elders— notably the distinguished tracker Jimmy James of the Pitjantjatjara— John became aware of the need to preserve the wealth of indigenous knowledge regarding the natural world. He clearly saw the role traditional tracking and bush survival skills could play in training and enhancing the cultural and natural awareness and self-esteem of a community, especially the youth.


For further study in Native American style tracking, John worked and studied at Tom Brown’s Tracking/Wilderness Survival School , New Jersey in 1984 & ‘85. During this time he initiated tracking/survival outreach programs to Native American communities, held Native youth workshops and lectured in universities. His work with the Mohawk nation newspaper Akwesasne Notes led to a series of workshops with Ray Tehanetorens Fadden and John Kahionhes Fadden at the Six Nations Indian Museum in Onchiota, New York. Classes with Native youth soon followed throughout the Northeast and in the Four Corners area of the Southwest.


To meet growing requests from Native communities, John established The Tracking Project (TTP) in 1986 as a not – for – profit organization. TTP is dedicated to working with community educators and Native elders from around the world to design a series of teachings which connect individuals directly to the natural world.


These programs of natural and cultural awareness inc lude a wide range of skills—from traditional tracking and survival skills to music, storytelling, dance, peacemaking and martial arts training. The name Arts of Life was chosen to describe these programs which emphasize indigenous knowledge, the lessons of Nature and the power of art.

Nainoa Thompson

Executive Director of Polynesian Voyaging Society

Charles Nainoa Thompson is currently the Executive Director of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS). Since 1976, he played an integral part in the design, construction, sailing, and navigatin of the Hawai'i Maritime Center's double-hulled voyaging canoe, Hokule'a. Also, under Thompson's supervision, PVS completed the construction of a new Hawaiian voayaging canoe out of traditional materials in 1994. The canoe, named Hawai'iloa, took its maiden voyage in 1995 across the Pacific from Hawai'i to Tahiti to Ra`iatea and back via Nuku Hiva, from where it is believed early settlers to Hawai'i came.

Thompson studied non-instrument navigation, or wayfinding, under master navigator Mau Piailug of Satawal, Micronesia. Thompson is the first Hawaiian to practice the art of wayfinding on long distance ocean voyages since such voyaging ended around the 14th centry. His first long voayage took place in 1980, when he navigated Hokule'a from Hawai'i to Tahiti and back. In 1985-87, he navigated Hokule'a without instruments across Polynesia from Hawai'i to New Zealand and back, stopping at islands along the way while covering more than 16,000 ocean miles. Thompson has trained other Hawaiians and Polynesians in the art of wayfinding and led a revival of traditional arts associated with voyaging in Hawai'i and Polynesia. In 1992, Thompson again took Hokule'a to Rarotonga for the Sixth Pacific Arts Festival celebrating the revival of traditional canoe building and back to Hawai'i. Most recently in 1995, Thompson directed a voyage entitled "Na 'Ohana Holo Moana - The Voyaging Families of the Vast Ocean,'' that took three Hawaiian canoes - Hokule'a, Hawai'iloa, and Makali'i to Tahiti, being joined by five other Polynesian canoes from the Cook Islands (2), New Zealand (1), and Tahiti (2). These, with the exception of the Tahitian canoes, then sailed to the Marquesas, to Hawai'i, and back to their homeland.

Thompson's current interest is to develop an educational program for the schoolchildren of Hawai'i to teach them about Polynesian voyaging traditions and instill them with pride in their ancient seafaring heritage. The program will emphasize not just knowledge about ancient traditions, but also modern scientific knowledge about the ocan and sky and environmental principles based on traditional values for insuring the conservation of resources and a safe, healthy, sustainable future for Hawai'i.

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