Maunakea Scholars Expands to Every Major Island

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Maunakea Observatories reports that its signature Maunakea Scholars program will, for the first time, be available to schools on every major Hawaiian island. This newly expanded presence extends the program’s unique educational opportunities to eager students statewide.

Maunakea Scholars students tour Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT). Courtesy photo.

“We are thrilled to have a presence on every island, offering students across Hawai‘i a pathway to become tomorrow’s leaders in astronomy and other high-tech arenas,” said Mary Beth Laychak, CFHT outreach program manager. “Maunakea Scholars combines high-level research skills and observing time on the world’s most powerful telescopes. It’s an innovative model for 21st century education, deeply rooted across all of Hawai‘i.”
The fourth Maunakea Scholars cohort adds schools from Kauai and Lanai, bringing the total number of schools to 12, the highest number yet. Participating schools include:
  • Hawai‘i Island – Honoka‘a High School, Waiakea High School, Kealakehe High School and Kohala High School
  • Kaua‘i – Kapa‘a High School
  • O‘ahu – Kapolei High School, Waipahu High School, Kalani High School and Nanakuli High School
  • Lana‘i – Lana‘i High and Elementary School
  • Moloka‘i – Moloka‘i High School
  • Maui – King Kekaulike High School
“In the past three years we have reached hundreds of students, and this year alone we will reach hundreds more,” said Doug Simons, executive director of CFHT.  “We are growing closer to our goal of bringing this program to every public high school in Hawai‘i, cultivating a generation of explorers that we hope will lead Hawai‘i into the future.”
The unprecedented Maunakea Scholars program has grown steadily since its inception in 2015, attracting the attention of new sponsors and partners who make exciting developments possible.  Funding from the Hawai‘i Community Foundation brings dual credit college level online astronomy classes to participating schools at no extra cost. A grant from First Hawaiian Bank covers numerous expansion costs including inter-island airfares for students flying to Maunakea and mentors flying across the state, and a grant from Kamehameha Schools to Imiloa Astronomy Center supports increased cultural education. The program also recently introduced the new Hokuala Scholarship, which awards $10,000 annually to Maunakea Scholars interested in pursuing astronomy in college.
“The expansion across the islands and evolution of our program’s offerings could not be done without the incredible support of our partners and our community,” said Laychak. “It is clear there is a widespread desire to provide our keiki with world class educations deeply rooted in Hawai‘i, giving them every opportunity to succeed.”
The Maunakea Scholars program now has all Maunakea observatories providing access to students, as well as Las Cumbres Observatory on Haleakalā. This innovative collaboration between the Department of Education, the University of Hawai‘i and Maunakea Observatories not only brings professional-level science into high school classrooms, but also shows aspiring young astronomers how indigenous culture and modern science can coalesce.
“Our team is building bridges between high school, college and the futures of students across the state,” said Simons. “Today’s Maunakea Scholars will be tomorrow’s leaders who not only stand out in their fields, but understand the crucial connection between culture and science and their responsibility to pass this on to future generations.”
For more information about the Maunakea Scholars and astronomy opportunities for students, visit online.


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