The Filipino Chamber of Commer of Hawaiʻi (FCCH) Fellows program is a leadership development program made up of emerging leaders who show the potential to make a difference in the community and in their industry. Each cohort class is comprised of a diverse group of individuals who will not only build individual skills for personal self-growth but will also gain greater insight in a broad range of other industries and social issues. The program is geared to provide a deeper awareness of civic duty through engagements with social, business, and government leaders. In having each Fellow bring their own unique experiences, perspectives, and ideas to the group, activities allow the Fellows to participate in visionary thinking to initiative change, creating lasting memories and relationships in the processes.
The core mission of the FCCH Fellows Program is to:
- Identify and develop emerging leaders in business, community, healthcare, education, arts, media, military, civic, governmental, or other industry sectors;
- Expand the Fellows' breadth of knowledge in various industries throughout Hawaii;
- Cultivate a civic-minded mentality in all Fellows;
- Enhance leadership skills through hands-on planning and implementation of solutions for the current community, business, or industry-related challenges;
- Connect prominent leaders with future leaders that show potential to be impactful in the community, business, and industry;
- Encourage an entrepreneurial mindset;
- Create a network of community, business, and industry leaders.
During the eight-month program, FCCH Fellows gain a deeper awareness of social, business, and industry issues. Engagements with professionals, activists, experts, and government leaders simulate thought-provoking ideas towards solutions for the betterment of society. The diversity of this band of trailblazers brings unique perspectives and assorted views to initiate change.
FCCH Fellows participate in a variety of activities including group field trips, cohort meetings, and individualized mentorship. The program kicks off each year with a retreat for Fellows to meet their classmates and develop their own group identity, citing relevant issues and activities that they want to partake. A concerted effort will be made in this program to include successful Filipino-Americans as mentors to serve as role models who can share their unique experiences and challenges of being a Filipino-American.
Each class will participate in a graduation ceremony which will be held at the Filipino Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii’s annual Entrepreneur of the Year event.
Each class of Fellows will be selected by a committee with certain characteristics taken into consideration. Generally, the Fellow:
- Shows leadership qualities;
- Displays potential for higher success;
- Is of good character;
- Is of good standing in the community and profession;
- Is self-directed, and is aware of self (strengths, vulnerabilities, and triggers);
- Experiments beyond self’s comfort zone;
- Has the professional business or executive management acumen [discretionary trait];
- Preferably, is civic-minded.
Individual diversity within each class is imperative in order to bring a variety of viewpoints and opinions. Varying professions, contracting stages in one’s career, differing upbringing, and diverging interests are criteria that may also be considered in forming the cohort class. Each class is anticipated to range between 4 to 8 participants each year.
Laren Eustace is a commercial real estate advisor in Honolulu, Hawaii with NAI | CBI Hawaii. Laren grew up in the small town of Batavia, Illinois in the western suburbs of Chicago. He played several sports throughout high school and eventually earned a scholarship to play college baseball at Indiana University in the Big 10 conference. Laren was a four-year letter winner in baseball at Indiana University while receiving his BS from the Kelley School of Business with a double major in Finance and Real Estate.
Laren first fell in love with Hawaii when his baseball team played UH-Manoa during his junior year in 2017. Immediately upon graduation in 2018, Laren packed all his belongings and moved to Hawaii to pursue a career in commercial real estate.
After living in Hawaii for two years, Laren has become heavily involved with community organizations such as the Filipino Junior Chamber, the Rotary Club, and the Building Industry Association. Laren likes to spend his free time hiking, running, and coaching youth baseball.
In the future, Laren aspires to become more involved with real estate development on Oahu with a focus on affordable housing. He also plans to start a non-profit organization to support young adult mental health.
Merlinda Garma is a modern-day Renaissance Woman – a lawyer, a television host, an actor, and an artist.
Merlinda graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Hawaii. She is the proud daughter of Filipino immigrants – her father, a U.S. Army Veteran and her mother, a retired Registered Nurse. She was crowned Miss Honolulu and competed in the Miss Hawaii pageant.
Merlinda became the Television Host of Hawaii Skin Diver, which made her a local household name. Hawaii Skin Diver has been airing since 2004 – over 15-years later! In the infancy of her acting career, Merlinda decided to enter and later graduated from the William S. Richardson School of Law.
Merlinda worked in private practice before embarking on her journey as a Trial Lawyer and Deputy Public Defender. She is an advocate for the underrepresented and fights to uphold individual rights under the Hawaii and U.S. Constitution. Merlinda also serves as President of the Hawaii Filipino Lawyers Association.
Never one to neglect her artistry, Merlinda dances Tahitian; plays the piano; and trains in boxing. She is the lead singer of a rock band. Merlinda also landed a coveted co-star role on an episode of Hawaii 5-0.
Natalie Millon is a young professional, entrepreneur, and active community leader with eleven years of experience in the nonprofit field.
With a business degree, she started her career at the Hawaii State Bar Association (HSBA), worked closely with the Young Lawyers Division Board on community projects, and also helped with the HSBA Leadership Institute, a program developed for promising attorney leaders.
She is a Community Grants and Initiatives Program Associate at the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation and provides grantmaking and client support for the Omidyar programs and other funds. She works with Pillars of Peace Hawaii, Census 2020, and Ulupono Initiative.
Owner of PhotoLuxe and Event Services and manages all operations of the business. PhotoLuxe oﬀers photo restoration, photo digitizing, portrait services, photo booths, and other aspects of event planning for all occasions with the mission to "create and beautify your vision".
An active member of the Junior Chamber International, she serves on the Hawaii state board as the Community Development Vice President; elected 2021 Executive Vice President; 2020 Chairman of the Filipino Junior Chamber of Commerce (FJC) and incorporates UN Sustainable Development Goals. Directed Kamayan Feast, the FJC's cultural immersion and signature event. 2018 Outstanding Chapter Oﬃcer and 2019 JCI Hawaii Outstanding President.
Natalie is family-oriented and values time with her beagle-spaniel Almond. In her free time, enjoys reading, gaming, creating media content, and listening to music.
Jeff Orig is a writer, director, producer based in Honolulu. He is of Filipino descent. He owns and runs a boutique production company in Honolulu. They film events, local commercials, short films, web series, feature films, and a local TV show. One of his Youtube channels has over 53,000 subscribers.
He has been honored with several awards for his commercial and creative work. Including 2 Pele Awards for best local commercial and official selection at the 2018 ITVFest. Plus, he was a finalist in the 2018 Sundance Youtube New Voices Lab as well as the 2018 Sundance Feature Development track. He recently completed the Sundance Fiction Directing Collab and Sundance Writing Collab and is a two-time Creative Lab Hawaii Fellow for Web Series and Producing. Jeff was also voted as the president of the Creative Entrepreneurs of Hawaii.
In addition, he completed Entrepreneur 1 and 2 at the Wharton School of Business. He was also a past winner of the Filipino Chamber of Commerce - Young Filipino Entrepreneur of the Year.
In his free time, he spends time with his wife, Lisa, and their two cats. Jeff hikes, plays basketball, and geeks out on vintage lenses.
Danicole Ramos is from Waialua, Hawai‘i, and a graduate of Kalani High School. He is a first-year law student and Ulu Lehua Scholar at the University of Hawai‘i William S. Richardson School of Law. He also serves as a Military Equal Opportunity Officer with the Hawai‘i Air National Guard and the Young Democrats of Hawai‘i's Vice-President.
Before attending law school, Danicole was the Government Affairs Analyst for Elemental Excelerator, a cleantech startup accelerator. He lobbied for clean energy and carbon-neutral economic policies at the State and county levels in his role. In 2019, GreenBiz recognized him as one of ten emerging leaders in climate change and sustainable business.
Before moving back to Hawai‘i in 2018, Danicole worked in Washington D.C. with United We Dream (UWD), the largest immigrant youth-led network, advocating for the DREAM Act and rights of young people under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival policy (DACA). He attended Seattle University on a full-ride scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Seattle University and earned a Master of Public Administration from American University.
In his free time, Danicole enjoys surfing, playing volleyball, and watching basketball.
Born in Manila but raised in Hawaii, Doctor Marel Ver is a graduate of Maryknoll Schools in Honolulu, and completed her Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology from the University of Southern California. After working in a research lab at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda Maryland, she attended medical school at New York Medical College and completed her general surgery residency at the University of Illinois at Chicago Mount Sinai Hospital. She completed her fellowship in advanced laparoscopic and bariatric surgery at the world renowned Cleveland Clinic. She came home to Hawaii to practice in 2014. Dr. Ver is very engaged as a physician holding many leadership positions in the hospital, including Trauma Medical Director, developing Pali Momi into a Level 3 Trauma Center by 2016. She was a Pacific Business News 40-Under-40 Awardee in 2017. Dr. Ver is passionate about patient care and performing surgeries but is also highly involved with community outreach. She is an invited speaker for a variety of topics including medicine and surgery, trauma, obesity, women's empowerment, cultural education, leadership, and mentorship. Dr. Ver is currently President of the Philippine Medical Association of Hawaii, an organization that is actively visible during this COVID-19 pandemic.
In Hawaii, Filipinos have had an impactful presence in the labor force, influencing economic growth, and vitality over the past 100+ years. While Filipinos are strongly represented in labor and service positions, their representation in leadership and executive management positions has been marginal. The FCCH Fellows program hopes to generate and uplift future leaders, specifically influential decision-makers who have a vested interest in the Filipino-American community. It is the hope of the founders of this program that the population growth of these specific leaders will create equity in the broader community of Hawaii.