Service is engrained in Darlene Fukuji’s everyday life.
Last July, at age 27, Fukuji became the youngest person elected president of the Rotary Club of Westchester in the organization’s 70-year history. It’s a commitment that puts her at the helm of 30-plus service projects a year, both locally and internationally — everything from a back-to-school shopping spree for local students in need to club members volunteering in Oaxaca to convert a jail into a library.
She’s also of service to student entrepreneurs as assistant director of the Fred Kiesner Center for Entrepreneurship at Loyola Marymount University, where she earned her undergraduate degree and is currently pursuing an executive MBA.
Though a native of Honolulu, Fukuji is in many ways a daughter of Silicon Beach. It was LMU’s commitment to social justice, and therefore social entrepreneurship, that brought her to Westchester from her “humble beginnings.”
“I always carry this feeling of I need to pay it forward and impact as many lives as I can in a positive way,” she says. “Kindness and hard work go a long way. I want to make sure I’m doing that with everyone around me to make the world a better place.”
Like most students, Fukuji had varied interests in college. Working in different fields while staying on campus is what led her to reactivate LMU’s Rotaract Club, which facilitates volunteer work among young professionals.
“I was just trying to find where the world needed me most and how I can make the biggest impact,” she recalls. “A lot of my mentors were in Rotary and became my second family in Los Angeles. It was overwhelming, just the amount of support out there in our community.”
Fukuji earned her bachelor’s degree in 2014, right at ground zero for Silicon Beach — start-ups in the area raised more than $500 million in the first six months of 2013, with 94 new businesses starting in the area.
After working in investment banking, Fukuji returned to her alma mater for the chance to help students develop their fledgling companies. At the Kiesner Center she spearheads a financial literacy program and the POWER Summit, a networking and support seminar for women entrepreneurs.
She’s found that her volunteer service in the community with the Rotary Club of Westchester aids her work with young entrepreneurs.
“It’s really cool how everyone really wants to help students,” she says. “I wake up every day just so excited and go to bed just so exhausted because I’m so passionate about the potential for the strength of our community. Everyone’s a contributor. Any way that I can help those who are trying to find ways to contribute to society, that’s where I like to be.”
— Kellie Chudzinski