Krystle Corpuz - Alumni Feature

Catching up with Krystle Corpuz

Inspired by a collective interest in foreign policy and international affairs, Krystle Corpuz and fellow members of the Kahuku High School debate team founded the school’s first PAAC club. Krystle was among the first cohort of students to travel to China as part of PAAC’s study abroad tour in 2003 and earned a PAAC scholarship for her international politics studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Continuing her successful decade-long career in international development, Krystle recently returned to Hawaii and has volunteered as a speaker at PAAC events to help the next generation of local students dig deeper into global affairs.



What did you enjoy most about participating in PAAC programs in high school?

Traveling throughout China for two weeks with other students provided so many incredible experiences. We visited universities, museums and landmarks, and toured the Yangtze River. Many of the students who participated on the trip came from families where we were the first to graduate high school. For most of us, it was our first passport.

Having that exposure to an international trip contributed to my thought process about China, learning about the country’s position as a major global player in the region, a more critical lens on human rights, such as discussing Tiananmen Square and other topics we didn’t always learn about in school.


How did PAAC help shape your goals after high school?

PAAC strengthened my interest in international relations as a career – it was a path that would allow me to travel and be exposed to this type of dialogue. I started as a freshman, and as we continued the club throughout high school, PAAC was instrumental in influencing the formative parts of my education and solidifying my interest in the international field. The experience opened my eyes to a world beyond Hawaii and how my skills and interests could be a positive force for change.


Tell us more about your career after graduating from college.

After graduating from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, I went to the Philippines for several years to work for an Australian engineering firm that did work with the Asian Development Bank and World Bank. It gave me the opportunity to see firsthand how foreign aid projects are designed and implemented around the world. I returned to Washington, D.C., and started work on international development programs funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development(USAID) and ever since have been working under various contracts to implement international programs for the U.S. government overseas.

I love my work and the diversity of topics I’m involved in. My career focus has been on sustainability, environmental management, climate change and natural resource management. However, I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world, supporting a wide range of international issues. A few examples include working in Uganda to explore innovative approaches for farmers to help navigate food insecurity and drought conditions; Nepal and Vietnam to explore local capacity development for USAID missions; and the Philippines to strengthen early childhood education programs and work with refugees.


What can Hawaii high school students do today to best prepare themselves for a career in global affairs?

Getting involved in PAAC is a great start. You have exposure to so many different speakers and are able to really drill down into topics that you might not otherwise cover in your regular high school classes. In addition, finding like-minded students who are interested and curious about international relations (e.g. PAAC clubs) also helped because we were able to discuss really complex questions that challenged our world view. With support from PAAC’s community and scholarship, I felt confident pursuing opportunities in the international relations field. I initially thought I wanted to be a diplomat, but I found there are many other ways to make a difference that involved more direct interaction with local communities and governments.


How did you get involved in PAAC when you returned to Hawaii?

PAAC was so supportive of my goals when I was in high school that I wanted to get involved to see how I can give back. I reached out and found there is a need for additional speakers and experts within my field. Not only have I been able to meet with students myself, but I can also make connections within my network.

Today’s students are discussing topics that are much more complex, and it is fascinating to see them critically thinking about global systems from a practical, philosophical and theoretical standpoint. PAAC is focused on going past the basic level of understanding, getting students to engage and ask tough questions about their world and it’s really great to see Hawaii kids thinking how they can make a positive impact on the world.


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