Diving into Admissions at Parker School: An Interview with Aunty Makela
Aunty Makela is the Head of Admissions at Parker School and a crucial figure for new students. Whether it is a campus tour, an applicant interview, or even strengthening school spirit, Aunty Makela always enthusiastically shows warmth towards Parker School. As she continues to inspire students, Aunty Makela opens the door to the future generations of students at Parker School. In this interview, we will learn more about Aunty Makela’s past, her role in admissions, and accomplishments outside of Parker School.
Can you tell me about your journey from working in the Hawaiian medium education school system to becoming a licensed therapist, and finally joining Parker School?
Aunty Makela: I am so fortunate to have been a part of a program whose mission, E Ola ka ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, is focused on the perpetuation of the Hawaiian language and culture. I started as a volunteer teacher’s assistant at Pūnana Leo o Hilo preschool while I was studying Hawaiian Language at UH Hilo and eventually moved on to help the program startup immersion schools statewide. Working with children has always been my passion and I pursued learning more about psychology because I wanted to help families and their children learn to be resilient as they face their life challenges. I worked in health care for 10 years before I found my way to Parker School. My son attended Parker in his 8th grade year and I was involved in PTSO. Shortly after, there was an opening for the Admissions Director position and I applied because I was ready and excited to be part of a school setting again, still in a capacity of helping families and children. I am grateful and humbled that I was chosen for this role and to be part of the Parker School ‘ohana.
As the director of Admissions at Parker School, what values do you implement in your routine to make students and their families feel welcomed and valued at Parker School?
Aunty Makela: The foundation of aloha is always key in all that we do, no matter what we do. Genuine aloha and positive intent are vital components to creating a conducive welcoming environment. Families who are interested in Parker School are looking for a safe learning environment for their children and to be part of a tight knit school community. I am always excited to share with interested families that the students here refer to me as “Aunty” and this “‘ohana feeling” is confirmed when I am on a tour and receive a hug or a shout across the basketball court, “Hi Aunty Makela!” from a Parker student. Our teachers and staff are also always willing to stop and say hi and I appreciate all the positivity and authenticity from everyone in welcoming our guests.
You have a master’s degree in counseling psychology. How do you use the things you have learned from this to influence your work in the admissions office?
Aunty Makela: Psychology and the basic understanding of humans are important and can be applied to any type of work. Psychology has helped me understand myself and ultimately, how to navigate the external world. First and foremost, I have become a better listener, which allows me to quiet any judgment or opinions and I try my best to understand what the other person is saying before I contribute to the conversation. In my admissions work, this is helpful because families and students have a voice and feel heard, and most importantly they know that I care, regardless of what school they end up choosing to attend in the end. Of course, the hope is that they choose Parker School!
What were some of your inspirations when writing Aia He Kāheka, your Hawaiian language children’s book?
Aunty Makela: This story is actually based on a real life experience as a child fishing with my dad on the Kawaihae coastline. I was standing in a tidepool to cool myself off and I cast out my fishing line. A wave crashed over and filled the pool with water. I felt relieved by the refreshing ocean waves after fishing all morning in the hot sun. Then I felt something heavy against my foot. When I looked down, there was a huge puhi (eel) in the tidepool and I jumped out immediately! Aia He Kāheka is a story of a variety of fish that washes into a tide pool with each wave and teaches counting in Hawaiian, as well as the Hawaiian fish names. It was a really fun story to write.
When looking through applications for Parker School, what are some things you look for in a student?
Aunty Makela: I am so thankful to work with Aunty Maile in the Admissions Office, and there are many others who play an important role in the process to help a family from inquiring to enrolling. What makes our process unique is our foundation of aloha. The intention is not to simply “sell” the school, but to share all of the great and wonderful things about Parker School because we believe in our mission and values, in the teachers, staff, and students, and all the good work that is happening in this special place, right here in the heart of Waimea.
What is the biggest lesson a student has taught you while working in admissions?
Aunty Makela: One of the biggest lessons that I have learned from working with students in all my roles, not just in admissions, is the importance of being a lifelong learner. As students, you are exploring your worlds, approaching life with zeal and curiosity. Every day and every encounter is full of opportunities to gain insight that either challenges or validates our perspectives. No matter our age, there is much to learn about the world around us and the world within. I like to think that we are all learning and growing together as an ‘ohana.
What does a typical day as the Admissions and Enrollment Manager look like?
Aunty Makela: I don’t have a typical day because every day is different. Admissions priority season is the heaviest, from the opening of applications in the Fall to enrollment in the Spring. During this time we are busy talking with families who are interested in applying to Parker School, hosting Open Houses and Previews, doing campus tours, interviews, testing and assessments, etc. Admissions and enrollment continues throughout summer and into the new school year because we process applicants who submit their application after the priority season. This is also a time when we are preparing for the next Admissions season. So, while school just started for everyone, Aunty Maile and I are already working on the following school year!
Finally, do you have any advice you would share with anyone reading this article?
Aunty Makela: My favorite quote from Maya Angelou is, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Kindness is key. Be kind and help make the world a better place for all.