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Chancellor and graduate at commencement holding a diploma and smiling
Maverick Yasuda with Chancellor Carlos Peñaloza (photo credit: Dave Miyamoto Photography)

Maverick Yasuda, a spring 2023 Leeward Community College graduate, knows the value of a community college education. His essay on the topic won the prestigious Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Founders Medal Award. Every year, college students across the country submit essays to be considered for the honor, and Yasuda’s was selected from more than 1,200 entries.

The award comes with a $1,000 scholarship, and Yasuda was presented with a special recognition medallion at Leeward CC’s commencement ceremony on May 12, 2023.

“I very much enjoyed reading his essay—he represents the absolute best of what community colleges have to offer,” said Lynn Tincher-Ladner, president and chief executive officer of the PTK Honor Society.

High school student

Yasuda’s accomplishment is even more extraordinary considering he earned it as a Waipahu High School student taking Leeward CC classes through Early College—a partnership between the University of Hawaiʻi and the Hawaiʻi Department of Education that allows students to take free college courses for both college and high school credit.

“I would not be in the position I am today without my Waipahu High School Early College Advisor Steven De Silva, Leeward Counselor Syreeta Washington and amazing Leeward CC professors who gave me the opportunity to learn at a higher level,” said Yasuda.

As a senior at Waipahu High School, Yasuda served as the student member on the Hawaiʻi State Board of Education, representing 170,000 public school students statewide. He maintained a 4.0 GPA and graduated with honors. He will be attending Harvard in the fall, and he hopes to become an individual who affects change on a local, national and global level as an environmental advocate, politician and businessperson.

“We are so proud of Maverick! Our early college students work hard to balance their kuleana (responsibility) as high school and college students,” said Washington, Leeward CC’s Early College counselor. “It’s a joy when they can utilize Leeward’s resources and our robust partnership with the high school to achieve their dreams.”

Key of opportunity

Two people smiling and flashing shaka
Maverick Yasuda receiving medal from KezKeziah Ancheta (photo credit: Scott Nishi, UH Foundation)

In his essay, Yasuda described his education at Leeward CC as a “key of opportunity” that began while taking summer college courses as an eighth grader, and led to his appreciation of the word “and”—a word that represents unlimited possibilities.

As the UH System leader in Early College enrollment, Leeward partners with 14 neighboring high schools and is serving more than 1,300 students in 2023 (an increase from 1,200 in 2022). Learn more about Early College at Leeward CC.

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