Kaluhi Kaapana, BEd Elementary Education Student & ʻŌiwi Distinguished Scholar

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Kaluhi Kaapana
“To incoming Native Hawaiian students, I would say get involved as much as you can. We only have so much time to take advantage of these opportunities…”

Hilo, HI


Institute for Teacher Education


BEd in Elementary Education Student (Statewide Program)

What activities or organizations are you involved with on/off campus?
I am involved with the Native Hawaiian Science and Engineering Mentorship Program (NHSEMP) and the Makalapua Na’auao high school outreach program. I am also a Hawaiʻi Teacher Standards Board teacher candidate representative.

What does it mean to be an ʻŌiwi Distinguished Scholar?
The ʻŌiwi Distinguished Scholar is an award that was created to highlight the works and research of Native Hawaiian students across disciplines. To be selected by my kumus at the College of Education is such an honor. It means so much to me to have been chosen among all the native Hawaiian students in the college, and I hope that I have honored them in my work and presentations.

How were you selected?
I was chosen for this inaugural cohort of scholars by ʻĀinahou, a group of Native Hawaiian faculty members in the COE. In addition to a $500 scholarship, I was given the opportunity to present my work on Advocacy for Native Hawaiians in Education at the 2019 Lāhui Hawaiʻi Research Center Student Conference.  

How did you become interested in the field of education?
I come from a family of educators, so education was actually something I was trying to avoid. Then, during high school, my senior project changed everything. It was called Lā Pilina, and  Pūnana Leo o Hilo brought their students to bond and learn from me and my classmates at our Kamehameha Hawai‘i campus. This is when I knew that it was my kuleana to teach and mālama these keiki kaiapuni.

Briefly describe your journey to college.
College was always a goal instilled in me by my family, but I knew that I needed to find the money to do it on my own. I grew up in a big family with seven siblings, so finding scholarships was essential. Without my scholarship from Makalapua Na’auao, I don’t know if I would be here at UH Mānoa today, striving and thriving as I am.

What advice would you give to incoming students who are considering education as a major?
To incoming Native Hawaiian students, I would say get involved as much as you can. We only have so much time to take advantage of these opportunities to do research or field work until we have our own classroom of students to teach this ‘ike to. If you are considering education as a major and find hesitation, think about the keiki you would be teaching. They are our future, and they need good teachers in order to be the next leaders.

What are your future plans?
My plans are to become a kumu in a Kula Kaiapuni.  Ultimately I would like to return to my roots in Hilo, HI, but for now I am learning so much from being in my field placement at Kula Kaiapuni ‘o Waiau. I would also like to pursue a master’s degree, but I am still weighing my options as to which program I would like to pursue.