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18 haumāna (students) from high schools across Hawaiʻi and the continental U.S. are wrapping up a free residential summer program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, part of a continued push to increase the number of Native Hawaiian students who attend and graduate from UH.

Hosted by Nā Pua Noʻeau (NPN) UH Mānoa, the 12-day Summer Institute engages students in interactive STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math)-based learning rooted in cultural identity.

student working on keyboard
Students are mentored by UH STEM majors in computer and keyboard building.

“The reason why we do intensive programs like the Summer Institute is to give them a taste of what the higher education experience is like, to be in particular departments and places and spaces at the university so that if and when they make that decision to pursue higher education they’re like, ‘Ok! I’ve been here before. I feel comfortable,’” said Kinohi Gomes, director at NPN UH Mānoa.

NPN immerses haumāna in daily cultural protocol such as hula, oli (chant) and activities grounded in mālama ʻāina (caring for the land). Students are also teamed up with STEM majors at UH who mentor them in educational hands-on activities, such as robotics, computer building and coding.

“It’s all about bridging the past with the present, and what we want to be able to do is, along with providing students with a nice cultural foundation, to let them know that they can proceed and interweave technology as a proud Hawaiian in whatever educational and career pathways that they want to pursue,” Gomes explained.

Kūpaʻa ma hope o ka ʻāina: Ever loyal to the land and Native Hawaiian resiliency

18-year-old Deion Peʻa-Whitney is one of the eager student participants this summer. The Hawaiʻi Island native recently graduated from Ke Kula ʻo Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu, a Hawaiian language immersion charter school, and would like to pursue electrical engineering at UH Mānoa.

“He kanaka hana ʻāina wau, no laila, no koʻu mau lima he ʻano ikaika. No kēia papa, ua aʻo wau e pili ana i ka palekana, ka hoʻomanawa nui me ka ʻenehana. (I usually work with the ʻāina, and it requires a lot of strength in my hands. Today, I learned how I have to be fragile since this is technology. It could easily break. I had to learn to be patient with technology and be comfortable with it),” Whitney explained.

Year-round programming

student working on electronic car
Students learn how to build a robotic self-driving car.

NPN, which is part of the campus’ Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge and Native Hawaiian Student Services, has run programs for students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade since 1989. Centers are stationed at UH Mānoa, UH Hilo, UH Maui College, Kauaʻi Community College and UH West Oʻahu. NPN provides haumāna of all ages along with their ʻohana a plethora of first-class learning opportunities ranging from visual and culinary arts, literacy and STEM aimed at providing direct access and a bridge between the community and higher education.

“Part of our equation is to include mentors, teachers, resources from both our university and the community that can allow and provide the bigger picture of how technology and STEM can be such an easy streamlined opportunity for students that are looking at that as a possible career and educational pathway,” Gomes said.

​​The Nā Pua Noʻeau UH Mānoa Summer Institute collaborated with the U.S. Department of Education-Native Hawaiian education program, State of Hawaiʻi Department of Education (DOE) Office of Hawaiian Education Department, DOE Community Engagement Branch, UH Mānoa Native Hawaiian Science and Engineering Mentorship Program, the Hawaiʻi Department of Health, Kamehameha Schools and Project Kuleana.

For more information go to the Nā Pua Noʻeau UH Mānoa website.

children standing in taro fields
Students are adorned in traditional kīhei (garment) they dyed by hand.
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