The divide between the east and west side in Salt Lake City has remained somewhat of a mystery to government officials on the outside looking in. This gap has perpetrated slow progress in the fight for equality, and Moana Uluave-Hafoka knew she could help fill it. The west-side raised, Tongan girl who currently serves as the mayor’s advisor for diversity and human rights policy and community outreach can pinpoint the problems because she’s experienced them firsthand.
“I grew up here, and I know the real divisions that are the east-west divisions. Growing up as just who I was — being Tongan, a woman, and my parents were and still are from the working class — my experience has also taught me that things in life aren’t fair. There are real opportunities to make them fair, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re there yet.”
After earning her undergraduate degree at BYU, Moana went on to earn a master’s in arts in education from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. Even after experiencing the prestige of an ivy league school, she knew she needed to give back to her home, Salt Lake City.
“There was a deeply held value and expectation that we were supposed to come back. It’s this cyclical thing where my mom and dad [said], ‘Yeah, you can get your whole education, but if you don’t remember the people who helped you get there, then what use are you?’ ”
Now, Moana’s focus is bringing equality to underrepresented groups in Utah — refugees, racial minorities, LGBTQ, youth, and people with disabilities. This is nothing new for her though, Blake Perez, who worked with Moana when he was the head of the Rose Park Community Council, recalled that she’s been involved with the community since she was young.
“She was such an outstanding community liaison during my time at Rose Park that I just want to help her succeed,” Perez said. She’s a down-to-earth person — very approachable, very warm, doesn’t get wrapped up in a lot of jargon.”
As Moana moves up with the government ladder, she’s grounded in her passion for community service and contributing to a greater cause.
“I always enter a room knowing that I’m there because many others can’t be. … I always recognize that I’m there for a reason and I need to do the work.”
Thank you, Moana, for being a #dope example of perseverance, selflessness, and overcoming your circumstances!
Delaney All Day