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Native Hawaiian High-Schoolers Immersed in Science, More at UH-Mānoa

June 29, 2022, 11:00 AM HST
* Updated June 29, 10:25 AM
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Students are adorned in traditional kīhei they dyed by hand. (Photos courtesy of University of Hawaiʻi)

Nearly 20 haumāna from high schools throughout the islands and the mainland are being immersed in science, Native Hawaiian culture and more as part of a 12-day summer residential program at a University of Hawaiʻi campus on Oʻahu.

Eighteen students are wrapping up the Summer Institute at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Hosted by Nā Pua Noʻeau UH-Mānoa, the program is part of a continued push to increase the number of Native Hawaiian students who attend and graduate from UH campuses. The Summer Institute provides interactive learning in science, technology, engineering, arts and math that is rooted in cultural identity.

Students are mentored by UH STEM majors in computer and keyboard building.

“The reason why we do intensive programs like the Summer Institute is to give them a taste of what the higher education experience is like, to be in particular departments and places and spaces at the university so that if and when they make that decision to pursue higher education they’re like, ‘OK! I’ve been here before. I feel comfortable,’” Kinohi Gomes, director at Nā Pua Noʻeau UH-Mānoa, said in a press release.

Nā Pua Noʻeau immerses haumāna in daily cultural protocol such as hula, oli and activities grounded in mālama ʻāina. Students are also teamed up with STEM majors at UH, who mentor them in educational hands-on activities such as robotics, computer building and coding.

“It’s all about bridging the past with the present, and what we want to be able to do is, along with providing students with a nice cultural foundation, to let them know that they can proceed and interweave technology as a proud Hawaiian in whatever educational and career pathways that they want to pursue,” Gomes explained in the press release.

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Deion Peʻa-Whitney, an 18-year-old Big Island native, is one of the institute’s participants this summer. Peʻa-Whitney recently graduated from Ke Kula ʻo Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu, a Hawaiian language immersion charter school, and plans to pursue electrical engineering at UH-Mānoa.

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“He kanaka hana ʻāina wau, no laila, no koʻu mau lima he ʻano ikaika. No kēia papa, ua aʻo wau e pili ana i ka palekana, ka hoʻomanawa nui me ka ʻenehana. (I usually work with the ʻāina, and it requires a lot of strength in my hands. Today, I learned how I have to be fragile since this is technology. It could easily break. I had to learn to be patient with technology and be comfortable with it),” Whitney said in the press release.

Nā Pua Noʻeau, which is part of the UH-Mānoa Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge and Native Hawaiian Student Services, has offered programs for students in grades PK-12 since 1989. Centers are stationed at UH-Mānoa, UH-Hilo, UH-Maui College, Kauaʻi Community College and UH-West Oʻahu.

Nā Pua Noʻeau provides haumāna of all ages, along with their ʻohana, a plethora of first-class learning opportunities ranging from visual and culinary arts, literacy and science, technology, engineering and math aimed at providing direct access and a bridge between the community and higher education.

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“Part of our equation is to include mentors, teachers, resources from both our university and the community that can allow and provide the bigger picture of how technology and STEM can be such an easy streamlined opportunity for students that are looking at that as a possible career and educational pathway,” Gomes said in the press release.

For more information, click here.

Students practice cultural protocol at Hawaiʻinuiākea on the UH-Mānoa campus.

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