Maunakea Scholars’ new scholarship launches with award to Honokaa senior

  • Courtesy photo Keilani Steele receives her scholarship on July 19 from Mary Beth Laychak, outreach manager for Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope.

Honokaa High School senior Keilani Steele is the first Maunakea Scholar to be awarded the new Hokuala Scholarship — a $10,000 award to attend the college of her choice in pursuit of an astronomy degree.

On July 19 at a Maunakea Speakers presentation at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, Steele was on stage to present her leading-edge research enabled by the Maunakea Scholars program. She received an observing run at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope last year and recently finished another observing run at W.M. Keck Observatory — research opportunities professional astronomers compete for worldwide. She is now preparing for her first year of college to advance her ambitions to be an astronomer.


“I’m ecstatic to be awarded the Hokuala Scholarship. This scholarship gives me and students like to me the ability to pursue our college dreams,” said Steele.

Steele was overcome with emotion, as she was selected for the first Hokuala Scholarship because of her extraordinary work as a junior and senior at Honokaa High School in the Maunakea Scholars program.

During the 2016-17 school year, through observations at CFHT, Keilani Steele and Hoku Sanchez discovered a new Herbig Haro object (a forming star) during their study of dark nebulae.

The program paused for a set of surprise announcements, including new additions to the community of supporters collaborating to advance educational opportunities for local students interested in pursuing astronomy.

• The $10,000 Hokuala (rising star) Scholarship is the latest addition to the Maunakea Scholars program. This scholarship will be awarded annually to one or more top performing seniors in the Maunakea Scholars program who are going on to study astronomy in college. For students attending the University of Hawaii, the scholarship award also includes a commitment of mentorship by a leader in Maunakea astronomy throughout each recipient’s undergraduate education.

• The Maunakea Scholars program is now partnering with the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Academy. Starting in the 2018-19 school year, high school students attending Hawaii Island schools hosting the Maunakea Scholars program will be able to take, at no cost, UH online astronomy courses, receiving college credit in the process. A $50,000 grant from Hawaii Community Foundation is enabling this exciting expansion of the Maunakea Scholars program.


• The Paul H.I. Coleman Endowed Scholarship for Astronomy, established by Newton and Roberta Chu with a $35,000 gift to the University of Hawaii Foundation, honors the late astronomer Paul Coleman, the first Native Hawaiian with a doctorate in physics and beloved member of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Institute for Astronomy faculty. The scholarship in his memory will support students pursuing degrees in astronomy within the University of Hawaii system.

Maunakea Scholars is a unique program worldwide that grants Hawaii public high school students access to the world’s most powerful collection of telescopes. Now entering its fourth year, the Maunakea Scholars program is working with the community to create a pathway for local students to take advantage of the best telescopes on the best site for astronomy on Earth — Maunakea — and grow into rewarding careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

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