Our Islands, Our Future

For the nearly 500 guests who attended this year’s annual Maui Economic Development Board’s (MEDB) Ke Alahele Education Fund Benefit Dinner, the love of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) was in the air. Held at the Grand Wailea Resort, the festive evening showcased Maui County’s STEM stars and raised funds to support MEDB’s STEM education programs throughout our county and across the state.

During the program, students also had an opportunity to share their love of STEM. Jeffrey Ho, 4th grader at Pukalani School enthusiastically said, “I’ve been a part of the STEMworks™ AFTERschool program for 2-years and have been exposed to robots, ozobots, coding, digital media, CAD, 3D printing, and more! These experiences have helped me gain leadership skills and confidence.”

Yasha Ronquillo, Maui High School alumna and STEMworks™ intern, observed, “If I were to describe the power of STEM for me personally it would be growth and opportunity. During my 6-week internship I networked with students and STEM industry professionals that I will continue to keep in contact with.” The students all thanked MEDB and STEMworks™ for the encouragement to embrace change and pursue opportunities for growth.

New to the event was the presentation of the Czechowicz Teaching Excellence Award, created by two former teachers, Lesley and Pawel Czechowicz, in honor of their mothers. The inaugural award recognized three exceptional STEMworks™ facilitators in Maui Nui: Cindel Jacintho of Lanai Elementary & High School’s after school program; Iolani Kuoha of ‘O Hina I Ka Malama, Molokai Middle Hawaiian Immersion School; and Emily Haines-Swatek of King Kekaulike High School.

The evening’s finale was the presentation of the Daniel K. Inouye Innovation Award, the highest student award MEDB presents. This year, the award went to 2018 King Kekaulike graduate Justin Hanks for integrating all the resources and skills he learned in the STEMworks™ program. For his senior project, Hanks put on elementary school STEM camps to encourage innovation and creativity in younger students.

MEDB Board President Ryan Churchill concluded, “We thank all those who have contributed and played a role in our youth’s love of STEM. It’s truly an investment that has the power to come full circle, helping to shape our leaders of tomorrow and ensuring a bright future for our islands.”

These funds will provide state-of-the-art technology tools for our students and training for our teachers — investments that will make a difference in the lives of our residents and our community.

Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President and CEO