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Waiākea Grad Credits Local Astronomers with Interest in STEM

July 7, 2019, 10:00 AM HST (Updated July 5, 2019, 12:13 PM)
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Lester Iwata during his graduation from Waiākea High School. Courtesy photo.

Former Waiākea High School student, Lester Iwata, says that Subaru Telescope staff made him think that a career in mechanical engineering was possible. Now his story has come full-circle.

“When I came in contact with the Subaru Telescope I had a crash course about stars, galaxies, and other celestial bodies in the universe,” Iwata said. “I was left with that feeling of awe, the feeling that makes you want to say ‘wow, that was cool.’ It bolstered my dream of pursuing science and now I’m studying engineering at University of Portland. One day, I want to do the same for Hawai‘i’s students, because I believe it can inspire them, like how it did for me.”

Iwata is completing his sophomore year of college and he intends to earn his degree in mechanical engineering. THINK Fund at Hawai‘i Community Foundation is supporting his education with scholarship funding.

“Since I was young, I always dreamed of going to college, receiving a degree, and getting the job that I love. With the help of this scholarship, my dream is becoming a reality,” Iwata said. “It is poetic that one Hawai‘i telescope’s staff inspired my career and another has supported me in the final steps of my journey.”

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Thirty Meter Telescope created THINK (The Hawai‘i Island New Knowledge) Fund to help Hawai‘i’s students succeed in fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The fund provides grants and scholarships to help students, teachers and families access educational opportunities.

Since 2014, the THINK Fund has awarded more than $5.1 million dollars.

“We are grateful to TMT for their generosity through this fund,” said Lydia Clements, vice president of Foundation and Corporate Partnerships. “They have invested in the development of Hawai‘i’s students to help them be successful in job sectors that offer higher-than-average pay and career advancement right here in Hawai‘i. Lester’s story is one of many THINK Fund student success stories. We expect to see many more in the years to come.”

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