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Meet Leilani Arita-Takayama

Headshot of Leilani Arita-TakayamaLeilani Arita-Takayama
Associate Director of College Counseling
‘Iolani School (HI)

What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
I find this age group of students fun and inspiring as they are constantly surprising me, challenging me in how I look and process what’s around me, and pushing me to be a more reflective educator. I enjoy getting to know their individual personalities, future aspirations, and stories while we plan for whatever their future holds.

What is your favorite part of the job?
I really love working with our students and colleagues on both sides of the desk. Whether it’s a random student visit during lunch hour or checking in with peers on the phone or on visits, I’ve appreciated all of the challenging and joyful moments. The pandemic has made me realize how important those connections with the folx we work and partner with are, especially given everything going on. Community is so important.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
NACAC has been a great support in my professional development and growth. The various conferences, affinity space, and other professional development sessions have given me an opportunity to collaborate and learn from others.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
The cost of attending college is a huge barrier for our students and families. Our current system of financial aid isn’t enough, and it feels like there aren’t enough scholarships and grants to fill in that gap cost. The pandemic has only intensified this ongoing issue. The other aspect of that cost is the sacrifice—student debt—that our students undergo to attend college.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
Reading non-graduate class books (can’t wait to tackle the reading list in the summer), driving around the island, and going out for walks. I also got back into making/soldering jewelry earlier in the year.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
I’d love to be Daine of The Immortals series. She’s courageous, outspoken, and loves to challenge societal norms. It’s been a while since I’ve read it, but it’s a great fantasy series when you need a little break.

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