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Interns in the 2015 Akamai Workforce Initiative program

Twenty-one students who graduated high school in Hawaiʻi and are now attending the University of Hawaiʻi or other universities around the country, are this week finishing up their internships at several Hawaiʻi observatories and high tech companies. The students are participating in the Akamai Workforce Initiative’s internship program, which is designed for students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields.

Now in its 13th year, the Akamai program uses a model where current professionals train the next generation students in skills needed to be successful. The interns are given valuable practical experience and professional coaching.

The 2015 Akamai Workforce Initiative program is funded by the Thirty Meter Telescope, the University of Hawaiʻi System, the THINK Fund at the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, the National Solar Observatory, the National Science Foundation and the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.

2015 Akamai Interns

The students began their internships in June as a single cohort taking a preparatory course for credit at UH Hilo. They then broke out into groups to spend seven weeks at various intern sites located in Hilo, Kona and Waimea on Hawaiʻi Island and in Pasadena, California.


  • Racieli Andrada, Maui High and attending California Polytechnic State University
  • Paul Barnes, Hilo High and attending UH Hilo
  • Celina Bekins, Seabury Hall and attending Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
  • Brittany Denzer, Kealakehe High and attending Colorado College
  • Jasmine Feliciano, Maui High and attending Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Kapono Gaughen, Kealakehe High and attending UH Mānoa
  • Tuan Giang, Kaiser High and attending UH Hilo
  • Michael Gorman, Kamehameha Maui and attending Syracuse University
  • Mickie Hirata, Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy and attending University of Redlands
  • William Kaeo, Nānākuli High and attending Kapiolani Community College
  • Kourtney Kehr, Ponderosa and attending University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Saxon Knight, Homeschool and attending UH Maui
  • Tina Li, McKinley High and attending UH Mānoa
  • Brialyn Onodera, Kamehameha Hawaiʻi and attending UH Mānoa
  • Kevin Ryan, Kapolei High and attending Honolulu Community College
  • Derae Shibata, King Kekaulike High and attending UH Maui
  • Hannah Twigg-Smith, Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy and attending Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
  • Luke Van Der Spoel, Kealakehe High and attending Rice University
  • Alexandra Van Pernis, Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy and attending Brown University
  • Darren Wong, McKinley High and attending UH Mānoa
  • Raycen Scott Wong, Waiakea High and attending UH Mānoa

Akamai Workforce Initiative

Fifty percent of this year’s cohorts are female and 32 percent are Native Hawaiian. The addition of this year’s 21 interns brings the total number of college students served by the Akamai Workforce Initiative to 300.

The Akamai Workforce Initiative was originally developed by the National Science Foundation Center for Adaptive Optics at University of California-Santa Cruz in 2002. Every major telescope in Hawaiʻi and many tech companies have participated. The Institute for Scientist and Engineer Educators at U.C. Santa Cruz leads the initiative.

For the student presentation schedule, visit the UH Hilo Stories website.

—By Susan Enright

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