About Us

Our Mission

The Kona-California Scholarship mission is to help support students from Hawaii in pursuing their educational opportunities in California. Since 2005, we have awarded $23,865 in scholarships to 22 of Hawaii’s best and brightest.

The founders of Kona-California Scholarship are thankful for their upbringing in the paradise of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. However, they feel that attending university on the mainland was important for their personal and professional growth. Kona-California Scholarship’s awards help to cover the significant costs of out of state tuition, college living expenses, and trips back home, so that the students can focus on achieving their educational and career goals.

In addition to helping individual students, Kona-California has a broader mission of helping entire communities. We feel that our Kona-California scholars enrich their university communities by sharing the “Aloha Spirit” that they have cultivated by growing up in Hawaii. In addition, we hope that they one day use their professional skills to contribute to their home communities in Hawaii.

While Kona-California Scholarship originally focused on helping students from Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, strong support from donors is allowing us to also support to other islands. Our goal is to expand to Maui and Lanai in 2013, Oahu in 2015, and Kauai in 2017.

We envision that over the long term, Kona-California scholars will be a network of the best and brightest in Hawaii, supporting and mentoring each other in educational and professional pursuits.

Our Founders

Travis Brown- After graduating from Konawaena in 1999, Travis studied marketing at San Diego State University. Through his classes and role as a resident advisor, fraternity member, and student athlete, Travis made a diverse yet tight knit group of friends and business partners. Since college, Travis has worked in the sports marketing industry and as a financial advisor on the US East Coast. Travis is currently working as the outside sales manager in Southern California for Borrmann Metal Center headquartered in Burbank, California. Travis is responsible for daily operations and sales for customers that compete globally in manufacturing, machining, and fabricating.  On his free time, Travis enjoys surfing, photography, and spending time with his family.

Max Robinson- Growing up in culturally diverse yet isolated Kona helped to spark Max’s interest in exploring the world.  After graduating as valedictorian from Konawaena in 2000, he went on to study international relations at the University of California, San Diego.  During his undergraduate years, he studied abroad in Spain, did an internship in France, and spent a semester in Washington, DC.  Max’s professional experience includes teaching Social Studies and History at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, California as well as working in management consulting in Vietnam and private equity in Singapore. He is currently pursuing an MBA at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Travis and Max cherish their upbringing in Kona, and feel that their island spirit gives them a unique perspective on their educational and professional opportunities. They also feel that the choice to move to San Diego has been invaluable to their personal growth. Their college and career experiences have given both Travis and Max a more diverse group of friends, exciting career paths, and a broader perspective on the world. They would like to support students with a similar desire to pursue opportunities in California.

Committee Members

Jasen Brown- Growing up in Kona and inheriting the Hawaiian traditions has shaped my life in many ways.  After graduating from Konawaena High School in 1997, Jasen furthered his education at Santa MonicaCity College and majored in Fire Science.  He played 2 years on the volleyball team and graduated with an A.A. in Fire Science in 1999.  His dreams came true in July of 2002 when he became a Firefighter/Paramedic.  To this day, he is still continuing his education by pursuing a B.S. degree in Fire Science because he feels education is the cornerstone to success. Currently, he works for Redondo Beach as a Firefighter/Paramedic and has career goals to move up the promotional ladder and become a Captain.  Growing up in Kona has even sparked his passion to compete in the sport of triathlon and his top goal is to complete the Kona Ironman one day.  To this day Kona still has a very special place in his heart and he enjoys going back every opportunity he has to re-visit family and close friends.

Kelly Brown- A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kelly attended the Pennsylvania State University and in 2000 graduated with honors with a degree in Nursing.  Kelly moved to Maryland and spent a few years working as a pediatric nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  She eventually became a travel nurse and moved to California but never lost sight of her Pennsylvania roots.  Kelly met both Travis and Max while living in La Jolla, they were all neighbors.  Kelly and Travis were married in 2008 with Max as their best man.  Kelly has traveled back to Kona multiple times with Travis and has fallen in love with the beauty, the culture, and the kindheartedness of the community.  Kelly currently lives in Cardiff and is working as a Nursing Informaticist at Rady Children’s Hospital.  Kelly enjoys yoga, tennis, and time at the beach.

Paul Tralka- Paul moved to the Big Island to attend the University of Hawaii at Hilo while on the National Student Exchange Program from the University of Rhode Island.  He earned his degree in Coastal and Marine Policy/Management and a B.A. in Communication Studies.  While in Hilo, he met his wife, Latisha who is from the Big Island. After getting married they restored an old plantation home in Kukuihaele, above Waipio Valley, and settled into life on the Hamakua Coast.  An opportunity to help re-launch a historic Hawaiian Beer called PRIMO brought Paul to Southern California.  He now works as a Marketing Representative for Primo Brewing and Malting Co. and lives in Cardiff with his wife, his dog Kalei and his newborn son, Koa.

Odie Sumi-After graduating from Konawaena High School, Odie pursued a degree in Industrial Technology from California Polytechnic State University San Louis Obispo. At Cal Poly he helped organize The Hawaii Club which served as a support organization for home-sick local kids from Hawaii. He has since returned to the Big Island where he owns and operates Pure Paddles. “My experiences in college were essential to the success of my business here in Hawaii. I know first hand the needs and how huge every bit helps for these college bound students. I”m stoked for the opportunity to part of The Kona-California Scholarship and give back as much as I can!”

Michael Hickman- Mike grew up in Waimea on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Michael went to Hawaii Preparatory Academy from kindergarden till graduation, he left for a year as a sophomore for Massachusetts to a school that specialized in learning techniques. While attending HPA he played Football, Soccer and Baseball.  After graduating from HPA in 2001 he decided to play soccer at Santa Rosa Junior College in Northern California.  When his time was up at SRJC he decided to transfer to San Diego State University where he majored in Criminal Justice.  While at San Diego State University Michael began working in the restaurant business.  He continues to do so at Donovan’s in La Jolla.  Michael is excited to be part of the Kona-Cali crew and help give back to youth where he was so fortunate to be raised.



Last update: October 2012