Maui High School’s Alexandria Tyau is among 16 high school juniors statewide who will be honored this summer as their school’s “Islander Scholar,” a program co-developed by Islander Institute and Malama Learning Center.
The Islander Scholar honor is part of an inaugural program recognizing students for their character and commitment to upholding values of Hawaii. The program grew out of a desire to honor students based on their values and actions that demonstrate a deep understanding of Hawaii–and not based solely on typical measures like grades and athletics.
Alapaki Nahale–a, co-founder of Islander Scholars–conceived of the idea while serving on the U.S. Presidential Scholars Commission for Hawaii, a national program that honors two students per state based on their academic achievements.
“We need to redefine what success means for our students in Hawaii,” said Nahale-a, who is also the former director of Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School. “Islander Scholars is a one-of-a-kind program that says our island values matter too. This award lifts up students who demonstrate care for their schools, families and communities.”
“Education in Hawaii has to be about more than just marching kids toward jobs,” said Andrew Aoki, founder of Islander Institute. “We believe these Islander Scholars have the skills and character to lead the way in building our communities, caring for our islands, carrying on important traditions, and passing down wisdom.”
Principals at traditional and charter public high schools were invited to select one junior as their school’s Islander Scholar based on six comprehensive learning outcomes rooted in Hawaii’s culture and environment; these outcomes (called Na Hopena A`o, which was adopted by the state Board of Education in 2015) include a sense of belonging, responsibility, excellence, aloha, total well-being and Hawaii, which spell out BREATH or HA in Hawaiian.
“The Na Hopena Ao Outcomes (or HA) holds a space for what is meaningful to us as an educational system not just in Hawaii but of Hawaii,” said Cheryl Ka`uhane Lupenui, a former State of Hawaii Board of Education member and an Islander Scholar Program Guide. “Na Hopena Ao resonates with so many people because it moves us at a deeper, below the piko, level of intelligence. Students, teachers, the superintendent, community members are all finding ways to breathe more life into our learning environments through HA.”
As part of this honor, all 16 Islander Scholars will come together for the inaugural Islander Scholars Academy at Camp Palehua (formerly Camp Timberline) from June 3 to 5 in Kapolei; this will be a special experience for scholars to connect and learn from each other, develop cultural and leadership skills, and build relationships with other island mentors.
“The Islander Scholars Academy will be an opportunity for our 16 Islander Scholars to discover what it means to be an islander and the joys and responsibilities that come with this honor,” said Pauline Sato, Program and Executive Director of Malama Learning Center.
All Islander Scholars are expected to return to their schools and communities in their senior year to uphold the values of the program and to serve as role models for their peers.
Photo of Islander Institute’s Josh Levinson and Alex Tyau courtesy of Islander Institute