MEO’s Cassi Yamashita named PBN 40 Under 40

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July 2, 2021

Maui Economic Opportunity’s Director of Community Services, Cassi Yamashita, has been selected as one of Pacific Business News 40 Under 40: Class of 2021.

Cassi’s name appears alongside some of the state’s top young leaders under age 40 including Tyson Miyake, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino’s chief of staff, Ashley Takitani Leahy, director of communications and development for Ohana Pacific Health, doctors, nonprofit executive directors, and top government and business officials.

PBN noted that “the competition was fierce this year.”

Cassi, 36, runs the largest department by programs (13) in one of Maui County’s largest nonprofit organizations with more than 225 employees. The programs under her management offer assistance for basic necessities, including housing (rental/mortgage) and utilities, and employment and other services to low income residents, recently released inmates, persons with disabilities, immigrants and kupuna. Community Services programs provide assistance and social activities for kupuna, training in first aid/CPR for the hearing impaired, translation and other necessary services for the Hispanic community and training and subsidies for immigrant farm workers.

She joined MEO in 2011 as a youth program specialist and rose through the ranks, becoming director of Youth Services in 2015, Assistant Director of Community Services in 2017 and Director of Community Services in 2019.

“I have known Cassi since her days as an MEO Youth Services program specialist where she worked with youth to prevent under-age drinking — a major focus of my time as a council member,” said Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura, who wrote a letter of support. “Cassi exhibited a wonderful rapport with youths and community leaders. Today, I know there are young adults on the island who are abstaining from alcohol and driving under the influence because of Cassi’s work.”

Cassi serves as Maui chairwoman of Hawaii’s Partners to Prevent Underage Drinking, vice chairwoman of the Maui County Commission on Children and Youth and as a member of Maui County Coalition for Underage Drinking Prevention, Coalition for Tobacco-Free Hawaii, Prevent Suicide Maui County Task Force and Maui County Reentry Council.

“A person like Cassi, dedicated to her work, committed to the community, and a leader to many, is a worthy 40 Under 40 candidate,” the council member said. “Cassi will only grow brighter as she accumulates experiences and knowledge. Her future growth as a leader will be led, as she always has been, by her caring heart for those in need and less fortunate.”

Debbie Cabebe, CEO of MEO, said that “the MEO family is so proud of Cassi, of her accomplishments to date and into the future.”

“The work she does with conviction and dedication directly impacts the lives of the people she serves,” she continued.

Helping inmates released from incarceration is a special cause for Cassi, who has had family members behind bars and visited them at a young age. She is treasurer of her church, My Brothers Keeper, Maui, which has a prison reintegration ministry, and goes into Maui Community Correctional Center regularly to offer help to inmates, including public notary services.

A showcase of the 40 Under 40 winners for 2021 can be found at

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