2019 islander scholars

“This is the first time I’ve ever felt comfortable in my own skin with a group of ‘strangers’ that I’m now proud to call my ‘ohana.”
— 2019 Islander Scholar

The fourth annual Islander Scholars Academy moved from its home of Pālehua on Oʻahu to Kohala Institute on Hawaiʻi Island from June 7 to 9, 2019. With 46 students from across five islands, this was the largest cohort of Islander Scholars yet. 

As with every class, the students first grounded themselves in place through moʻolelo and spending time on the land. With the help of Kohala Institute Executive Director Noe Kalipi, the Islander Scholars learned about ‘Iole, one of the island’s few intact ahupuaʻa, and home to what are said to have been two favorite loʻi kalo of Kamehameha I. 

On Saturday, the Islander Scholars traveled to Paʻauilo and learned about another famous chief of Hawaiʻi Island, ʻUmi-a-Līloa. From Noʻeau Peralto of Hui Mālama i ke Ala ʻŪlili, we learned the moʻolelo of Hāmākua and ʻUmi-a-Līloa, both extremely relevant to our modern times. The Islander Scholars did their humble best to mālama ʻāina of Koholālele by pulling weeds and halihali wood for community use. Under the guidance of ʻŌiwi artist Haley Kailiehu, we tapped into our own inner artists to express what was in our naʻau.

Islander Scholars is not just about one special weekend in June. It’s about living all the rest of our days just as we do on that one special weekend in June. It’s about learning about our islands, being open and generous with others, striving to be our best selves, and working to fulfill our unique kuleana. 

Two Islander Scholars from the 2017 class, Gabby Navalta (Laupāhoehoe Community Public Charter School) and Loa Haleamau (Ke Kula ‘o ‘Ehunuikaimalino) proved this point by returning to document the 2019 Academy through photography and videography. Feeling called by their kuleana as past Scholars, they shared their tremendous talents of photography and videography with humility and served as great role models for the newest Scholars.

Mahalo nui to the partners who believe in the vision of Islander Scholars and who make it all possible. Thank you all for seeing and valuing these amazing students.

  • The 19 adults who served as guides throughout the weekend in small groups to create a safe space for the Scholars to connect, learn, and grow together; 

  • Our host, Kohala Institute, for all the big and little things you did to make us feel comfortable and safe

  • Our funding partners: Kamehameha Schools, for seeing how educational success emerges from strong island communities. HMSA, for understanding that true health is the connection we have to our place, our community, and our best selves. Nā Lei Aloha Foundation for building a future of peace, harmony and aloha by lifting these scholars. Honuʻapo for your major investment in Hawaiian culture and communities. And Harold K.L. Castle Foundation for being personally committed to the scholars of Windward Oʻahu. 


the 2019 islander scholars

ʻO Hawaiʻi kuʻu ʻāina kilohana
— Hawaiʻi is my prized place








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