islander scholars

The Islander Scholars program honors public high school juniors who exemplify the values that make Hawaiʻi unique. The program connects a select group of students to each other, forming a cohort of young leaders who will help Hawai‘i thrive in the future.

why islander scholars?

We believe there is more to being a "scholar" than good grades and high test scores. Across our islands, there are students who demonstrate the very things that make Hawaiʻi special—they care for their families and communities, understand who they are as individuals, honor their past, and cherish this place as we do a loved one. Most academic awards praise students who have “great potential” based on their grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities. We rarely recognize students for who they are as people—for their character and commitment to the things that make us proud to be of Hawaiʻi.

about the program

Every year, public school principals at traditional and charter high schools statewide are invited to select one junior in their school to be an Islander Scholar based on six comprehensive learning outcomes rooted in Hawaiʻi’s culture and environment. These outcomes, called Nā Hopena Aʻo or HĀ, emphasize the competencies that students need to develop to have a deeper sense of their purpose after they leave high school. These include a strengthened sense of Belonging; Responsibility; Excellence; Aloha; Total Well-Being; and Hawaiʻi, spelling out BREATH, which we know as HĀ. Islander Scholars are students who exemplify these characteristics through their actions in school, community and/or families.

All selected Islander Scholars come together for a three-day Islander Scholars Academy in June. As a part of their award, they connect to and learn from other like-minded students, talk story with cultural practitioners and mentors, share about their communities and ‘ohana, and deepen their understanding of their kuleana as they head into their senior year and beyond.

Islander Scholars is led by Islander Institute in partnership with Mālama Learning Center and a team of individuals who share a deep commitment to Hawaiʻi.

This program changed my life and helped me become a better leader for our future.
— 2016 Islander Scholar

how to participate

Any Hawai‘i public high school can recognize an Islander Scholar. Encourage your principal to participate today!