Inspired by her father, who was a coach for over 50 years, and a local athletic director she knew in grade school, Cornelia Hoku Haliniak has herself become an expert in the field, cultivating particular skill in building relationships and navigating difficult undertakings. She embarked on her studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications, before achieving her Master of Arts in education from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Beginning her career as a classroom assistant, Ms. Haliniak was encouraged by her school principal to apply for an athletic position, which kickstarted the rest of her career. She later obtained certification in volleyball officiating and coaching and is a certified athletic administrator.
Motivated to make a difference in the lives of her students, Ms. Haliniak served as a coach for President William McKinley High School and President Theodore Roosevelt High School in Honolulu before joining her alma mater, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, as the assistant sports information director and intramural coordinator. She went on to hold the position of athletic director for the Laupāhoehoe Community Public Charter School and Molokai High School and of director of information for the Hawaii High School Athletic Association. Since 2015, she has excelled as the athletic director of Pahoa High and Intermediate School, where she is in charge of the sports for their league and works with the student activity coordinator to run school events.
Alongside her primary responsibilities, Ms. Haliniak is a member of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, where she has spent time on the awards committee and the COVID-19 project committee. She is also involved with the National Federation of State High School Associations as a member of the student services committee and spent time as a member of the student activity committee of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association. Ms. Haliniak is an active member of her community as well, and has served on the board of directors of Hawaii Homeland Community and additionally donated her time to Unified Sports and Friends of Corvalio Field. Looking toward the future, she hopes to launch a program called Women of Hawaii to provide scholarships for female students.
Attributing much of her success to the support of her family and mentors, Ms. Haliniak has been honored for her excellence by the Hawaii Islands Volleyball Academy and presented with the Coach of the Year Award for Boys Volleyball. Above these accolades, she cites her proudest moment to be helping a high school junior who was failing school to raise his grades enough to play sports his senior year and graduate with a 2.0 GPA. This student would later go on to have a successful career as a barber. In light of all these accomplishments, Ms. Haliniak has been honored among Who’s Who of Professional Women for her decades of excellence.