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Nannie Apalla of Kaua'i Planning and Action Alliance

Updated: Sep 4

This woman embodies so much of what Kaua'i IS. Kind, generous, gracious and honest. I remember the first talk we had at a bonfire up at Camp Sloggett during our Leadership Kaua'i retreat.  Nannie has such a calm and assuring presence that you can underestimate the depth of intention and purpose that she is driven by. She is the type of leader who's strength is in action not just words. This month its exciting to see all the work she is overseeing to invest in the future of Kaua'i through our Keiki and I am in awe of her clarity and focus that continues to lead her forward into new territory. 

Tell us about what the Kauai Planning and Action Alliance is and your role in it?

Kaua`i Planning & Action Alliance (KPAA) is a non-profit organization that provides a forum for the community on issues that matter most to Kaua`i. offering community groups, nonprofits, government agencies and businesses opportunities to work collaboratively. We serve as a neutral convener and facilitator, bringing together and guiding action teams and committees to develop and implement solutions to Kaua`i’s priority issues. Currently, KPAA is focusing exclusively on the Keiki to Career Kaua`i Initiative, which includes five major program components: the Kaua`i Resilience Project, Career Connections, Share Family Meals, the Kekaha Early Literacy Project, and the Kaua`i Youth Report. These projects are described more in detail at www.keikitocareer.org.


My role as the Project Manager, like many small nonprofits, requires me to wear many hats to get the job done. The beauty of working for KPAA is the ability to tap into our long-standing partnerships, cultivated through collaborative works that allow us to gather and leverage our individual strengths and resources collectively to address and provide for the needs of our Kaua`i community, more specifically to address the needs of our youth. An example of this would be the collective efforts of our committee members and partners in the Kauai Resilience Project (KRP), where the focus is on addressing the quiet crisis among our island’s youth by increasing awareness and community protective factors around our youth through our Kauai’s Kids Are Your Kids campaign. More information about our collective efforts can be found online at www.KauaisKidsAreYourKids.org

What events or turning points in your career were key in landing you into this position?

After graduating from Chaminade University of Honolulu in 2010 with a BA in Communications, Marketing, the need for a 9 to 5 job, in order to start paying off my student loan debt, set in. Since the job market of my chosen field was competitive, I needed to differentiate myself in order to set myself apart. My love for change and my need to challenge myself, broadened my view to explore beyond the shores of Hawaii. With the blessing received from my family and the support and encouragement from my partner at the time, I moved to Hamburg, Germany in pursuit of furthering my education. 


The opportunity to live, study, and work on projects in Germany gave me the experience I craved for at the time. Learning a different language from scratch and willingly immersing myself in the German/European culture gave me an insight that I would otherwise not have experienced if I had not taken the initial leap of faith. My time there, working and traveling, shaped my perspective and I gained valuable insight through unfamiliar settings that challenged me to adapt and grow. 

After years of living away from Hawai`i and immersing myself in the German language and culture, I was missing home very much. There is a word in German that embodies this feeling of missing home; Heimweh--Homesickness. This feeling along with other changes, made me decide it was time to return to Kaua’i in early 2018. Initially, I was uncertain whether I could stay on the island, I needed to find a job quickly that could sustain me. My experience has been, if you make your intentions known, Kaua`i will provide and I trusted in this.


Although I had been away for years, through my family and my community network, I was able to secure a part-time job with March of Dimes-Hawaii just a week into arriving home. From there, I was connected with Marion Paul, president of Kaua`i Planning & Action Alliance (KPAA) at time, who was seeking to hire a team member to help coordinate for the Keiki to Career initiative. I started as a part-time worker, and from there, grew into my current position of Project Manager with KPAA-Keiki to Career.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I like being able to work in a space where I can directly address the needs and give back to my community. Kaua`i is my home, the community I grew up in, the community that nurtured and helped raise me. I feel a sense of duty to give back to this community. Through the work that we do here at KPAA-Keiki to Career with the help and contributions of our community partners and leaders by focusing our collective efforts in addressing the needs of our youth, I can do just that—be a part of an amazing group of individuals and organizations that are dedicated to giving back to our community.


How does this role challenge you?

Working in the nonprofit world challenges me in so many different ways since I joined the KPAA-Keiki to Career team. It has been a little over three years since my return to the island and I am still learning so much in my current line of work. I never expected my journey to lead me back home this early in my career, nor did I see myself working in the non-profit sector. What I love about my work the most is it allows me to apply what I have learned in my profession and apply my insight into managing our current projects. 


Who or What were the key influencers in your journey?

My grandparents, particularly my mom’s father, Gerardo Astillero 

My parents, Dr. Antolin G. Apalla, Jr. and Mrs. Nancy A. Apalla

My sister, Juno Ann Apalla and brother, Anthony Jude (AJ) Apalla

My time spent and experiences accumulated during my time living in Germany and exploring Europe. 

The moment I chose to end a 10yr+ relationship with my partner and leave behind the life I’ve invested years of my time and energy into building knowing it was a space and role that no longer contributed to my needs and goals in life. This included a lot of self-reflection.

My great desire to move back home to Kaua`i after years of living abroad in hopes of applying what I’ve learned during the years of my absence back into enriching my community.

Marion Paul, Tad Miura and the many community leaders that I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with since my return to the island. I thank them for allowing me and giving me the opportunity to grow in my role in the organization and for being such great role-models and mentors.

What have you learned about yourself through this process?

It’s never too late for change, as long as you go forward in your own personal journey with intent.


What advice would you offer to others?

To live life with intent, gratitude, and integrity. 

To approach others with an open heart.

Kindness and respect goes a long way.

Treat others the way you want to be treated…

Many of these pieces of advice are what we’ve heard from our elders growing up...but for me, the challenge I present is to live life authentically...authentically you.


What are you most excited about?

Our community rallying together to provide for the needs of our keikis.

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