Four Maui students were among 40 high school juniors statewide who will be honored this summer as their school’s Islander Scholar. The third annual Islander Scholar program recognizes students for their character and commitment to upholding the values of Hawaiʻi.
Tia Caulford of Baldwin High School, Marissa Pu of Hana High and Elementary School, Jay Baptista of Lahainaluna High School and Hunter Nahooikaika of Maui High School are the four Islander Scholars representing the best of Maui.
Islander Scholars, created in 2016 by Islander Institute and Malama Learning Center, grew out of a desire to honor students who demonstrate a deep commitment to Hawaiʻi and who care for the well-being of their schools, families and communities as much as or more than their own individual pursuits; the criteria for this award goes far beyond typical measures like grades, test scores and extracurricular activities.
“The test for measuring an Islander Scholar is life itself,” said Andrew Aoki, co-founder of Islander Institute and father of two public school students. “These remarkably resilient students are truly educated. They are the product of a whole school community working together to prepare them not just for college, but for leading a positive island life. Islander Scholars give us a glimpse of the full potential of public education in Hawaiʻi.”
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 Hawaiʻi. These outcomes – collectively called Na Hopena A‘o and adopted as policy by the state Board of Education – include a sense of Belonging, Responsibility, Excellence, Aloha, Total Well-Being and Hawaiʻi, which spell out BREATH or HA in Hawaiian. Principals were given sole discretion to develop a selection process, with many involving teachers, counselors and others in discussions about the students in their school.
As part of this honor, all 40 Islander Scholars attended the Islander Scholars Academy at Camp Palehua from June 1 to 3 in Kapolei – a special experience for scholars to learn from each other, participate in ʻaina-based and cultural learning activities, build leadership skills, and make lifelong connections with past Islander Scholars and island leaders.
“I not only learned about students and teachers from all around the pae ʻaina, but I also learned quite a lot about myself,” said 2017 Islander Scholar Paisley Richards, who recently graduated from Halau Ku Mana. “From discussing personal buried topics to individual leadership qualities in each of the students, I learned how much power each of us there held within us. As a result from going to this amazing program, I now view myself as more of a leader. Before I came to this program, I saw myself only as a follower, so the amount of development that I went through within those three short days was incredible.”
“The people of Hawaiʻi are yearning to rediscover the things that allowed our islands to thrive,” said Alapaki Nahale-a, Senior Director of Regional Strategies for Kamehameha Schools on Hawaiʻi Island. “Islander Scholars are the leaders we have been looking for. They quietly sacrifice for family and community in the same way that our ancestors did for all of us.”
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.
Photos: Islander Institute.