Scott Keoni Shigeoka
Born in Hawaii, I grew up in the small town of `Aiea right next to Pearl Harbor. I lived in a tiny wooden house that stood on what used to be sugar plantations. My ancestors moved from Japan to Hawaii to work those fields. And before that, it was Ahupua`a—where Native Hawaiians harvested loʻi, fished and lived.
When I was a kid, my dad and I spent weeks constructing a two-story treehouse in the mango tree in our backyard. When we finally finished, we climbed to the top floor to celebrate. We sat down, took a breath in and then looked out at the beautiful view of the surrounding neighborhood and lush, green mountains.
A few weeks later, my dad went to prison. I was entering the seventh grade, stepping into the toughest two years of my childhood. I was grappling with my identities, working through my dad's imprisonment, healing through sexual trauma and experiencing constant bullying. I felt isolated and broken. But at the end of each school day, I'd run up to the top of the tree house, and I'd take the view in. It became my sanctuary. It helped me heal. It was as if my dad knew that I would need that tree house in those years to come.
Over time, I slowly started to engage with others again. Once retreating into the fantastical lands portrayed in my computer video games, I eventually ventured out into the "real world." I went on my first camping trip. I joined clubs. I made friends. I started to feel a sense of belonging to the people around me. By high school, I had formed a strong community built on trust, security, empathy and a whole lot of effort. I was voted Homecoming King.
Since then, I've been reflecting: What can my past teach me about the work I do today, and what does that mean for the future? Why did my treehouse become a space for healing, and how do we design and build treehouses for others? How was I able to embrace community, and how can this experience of belonging be scaled to thousands or millions of people?
Today, I’m exploring these questions with curiosity and joy. I'm designing new spaces for people to connect and collaborate with each other. I’m working alongside diverse community builders who inspire me. I’m learning and sharing different healing practices. I’m using technology to scale belongingness. The journey has been deeply purposeful and playful, and it’s a path that I’m dedicating my life to.