City Girl, Country Heart

The best part about Hawai‘i is that it permeates every part of your life as if it were a living, breathing, part of you. This is what Sherry holds dear to her, as close as ‘ohana. Sherry and her ‘ohana have Native Hawaiian roots on Hawai‘i Island, Maui, and Kauai.

Sherry Alu Campagna was born in 1970 at Kapiolani Women’s and Children’s Hospital to Stan and Chasmin Sokoloski. Her mother, Auntie Chas, is a Native Hawaiian advocate and public school teacher. Her father spent his entire career with the Department of Defense, eventually becoming the regional director of the U.S. Army’s Internal Management Command. Stan’s career with the DOD took him and his family around the world, including an assignment at the Pentagon during the 9/11 attacks which earned him the Army’s Exceptional Civilian Service Medal.

Sherry’s great-grandfather Yamaguchi emigrated to Maui to be a school teacher on the plantations. Sherry’s great-grandmother Yamaguchi arrived to Hawaii as a picture bride. Sherry’s maternal grandfather, Ernest Alu, a WWII veteran, was born on Maui and became active in state politics in the 1950s and 1960s when he advocated changes to the airport so that schools and homes in Kalihi could be spared the constant barrage of noise from planes directly overhead. Her maternal grandmother, Mitsue Yamaguchi Alu, was born in Pu‘unene Maui, a Japanese Nisei who was disowned for marrying outside her race. She was a nurse at St. Francis Hospital and is buried at Punchbowl with Sherry’s Grandpa Alu.

Sherry’s Chinese heritage started on the island of Kauai as immigrants, the Leongs, who were among the first Chinese to settle in Hanapepe Valley. The descendants of the Leongs still make pa‘akai for family purposes. Sherry’s great-grandmother Lizzy Hoinele Paulo was a student at Kamehameha Schools for Girls, Class of 1914.

Sherry Alu Campagna co-founded and operated an environmental planning, permitting, and renewable energy firm with offices in Honolulu and Hilo. She’s a wetland scientist, biologist, ecologist, with experience in Hawai‘i, the continental U.S. and the western Pacific with regard to superfund clean up, master planning, and transportation. Her diverse career history includes permitting, public affairs, brownfields, shorelines, solid waste, wildlife, remediation, renewable energy and storm water management projects.

Sherry Alu Campagna has been an agent for social change her entire adult life, initially as an advocate for racial equality as a Native Hawaiian, during her college years then later widening her arena to include women’s rights and class disparities.

Foster Care Reform: Sherry has been a foster care system reform advocate for over a decade and recently won a landmark court decision based on a class action lawsuit awarding foster families an increase in care payments, which had not been matched for inflation or the cost of living in 24 years. Without such an increase, the retention of quality foster care families for foster children in need remained unnecessarily encumbered. Through Olomea, the nonprofit Sherry founded, she succeeded in legislatively increasing the the cutoff age for foster children receiving care from 18 to 21.-

Women’s March on Washington D.C.: Sherry was one of the original national organizers of Women’s March who rallied over 15,000 people on O‘ahu, including 5,000 on Maui; 3,000 on Kauai; 7,000 on Hawaii Island. The largest recorded public demonstration in the history of the state both collectively as a state and in each district.

As the state chair, Sherry organized a focused team of 200 volunteers that she lead in organizing the statewide rallies and marches. She also brought 200 Hawai‘i advocates and allies to Washington D.C. to participate in the 2 million-person march to the Capitol.