Pilina Education Alliance

Our Story


Pilina Education Alliance started in 2021 when founder, Mary Wenstrom, realized the power of bringing work based learning classes from the community helped students from all different backgrounds learn and engage with what they were learning. Having built schools and programs in Germany, China, Spain, and Hawaii, Mary saw the transformational power of community in being an educational agent. Pilina's model of virtual first, career based, and community focused education was catalyzed by the COVID 19 pandemic. It was during this time, we saw two main problems highlighted:  equity in educational opportunities and the disconnect between standard curriculum and meaningful career opportunities in Hawaii. 

The standard educational system isn't working for every student. Each year, more and more students disengage from school because their curriculum does not match their passion to improve a world full of big problems. At Pilina, we deliver rigorous educational curriculum through the lens of real-world problems. Since our first cohort of students, we have expanded our offerings to 10 unique programs including AgTech, Sustainability, and Marine Robotics. For each new program, we've onboarded new partners, created custom curriculum, defined success metrics, and collected students and staff feedback to continuously improve and grow our model. 

Pathway to Purpose

Our program puts students in the navigators role to their education, letting them pick projects and experiences that they are passionate about and providing mentoring and support for them to achieve their dreams.  

Our Team

We put together a team that spans across various industries - mixing proven methodologies, design thinking, innovation, and passion.
Aakash Shah

Aakash Shah

Educational Program Lead @ Pilina

Former principal at Hawaii Technology Academy

Ed.M. School Leadership, Harvard University

Kim Ah Soon

Kim Ah Soon

Educational Program Lead @ Pilina

Curriculum Coordinator at Wai'alae Public Charter School

Former principal at Hawaii Technology Academy


Jimmie Harris

Jimmie Harris

Head of Experience and Programs @ Plina 

Former product manager at Oceanit and Education researcher at Stanford d.School

M.S. Design Impact, Stanford University, BS Mechanical Engineering, MIT

Ian Kitajima

Ian Kitajima

Industry Development Lead​

Tech Sherpa at Oceanit. Co-Starter of Aloha AI, Design Thinking Hawaii, Altino Coding 4 Teachers, etc

BBA Marketing & International Business, University of Hawaii

Mary Wenstrom

Mary Wenstrom

CEO @ Pilina Education Alliance

Education and Social Entrepreneur. Founder of schools.

Ed.M. School Leadership & School Development, Harvard University

Our Innovation Advisory Council

Our advisory council is made up of incredible leaders in our community and help guide us to achieve our mission

Dr. Maya Soetoro

• Co-Founder, Ceeds of Peace & Institute of Climate and Peace
​• Director of Asia Pacific Region, • The Obama Foundation​​
• Professor, University of Hawai’i- Mānoa

Puanani Burgess

• Community Leader​
• Activist
​​• Poet

Alexander Harris

• Vice President for Programs, Castle Foundation​
• Omidyar Fellow​
​• MPP in Education Policy and Nonprofit Management, Harvard Kennedy School

Dr. Kerrie Urosevich

• Co-Founder, Ceeds of ​Peace
​• Professor, University of Hawai’i- Mānoa
• Action Strategy Coordinator for the Hawai’i Governor’s Office​
​• Omidyar Fellow