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Nicolas and her art piece
Shania Nicolas
Atkinson with art piece
Valèry Atkinson
Helea with art piece
Kaiehu Helela

John Young Foundation Scholarships in recognition of artistic talent and academic achievement have been awarded to three Leeward Community College students, who were highly recommended by their teachers. Established in honor of Hawaiʻi-born artist John Chin Young, the scholarships support graduates of Hawaiʻi high schools, assisting them with costs such as tuition, books and supplies.

Shania Nicolas, who specializes in painting, was awarded a $1,000 scholarship for spring 2024, while Valèry Atkinson (various media) and Kaiehu Helela (primarily photography) each received $2,000 scholarships for the 2024–25 academic year. Their outstanding works were included in the Hōʻikeākea Gallery’s first student show this spring.

“Initially uncertain about my career path, I rediscovered my passion for art at Leeward CC, where exploring various mediums solidified my desire to pursue it,” said Nicolas. “With the support of this scholarship, my peers, and mentors I am now more confident and dedicated to creating inspiring works and achieving my artistic dreams.”

Atkinson, a non-traditional student, returned to Leeward CC after some time away. Despite initially leaving art behind, her enduring passion led her back to the art department, working alongside inspiring professors and students.

“I am honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to work with each of them, and I am completely beside myself that they feel that I deserve this acknowledgment,” she said.

According to Helela’s Art 101 instructor, Nanci Amaka, Helela met all the challenges with grace, intellect and skill, enriching class discussions and supporting classmates with his creativity and insightful questions. His final project, a mixed-media self-portrait with live flowers, uniquely and beautifully explored his struggles with his native Hawaiian identity.

“This scholarship is an honor to receive,” said Helela. “It feels like an acknowledgment and appreciation of my work from Leeward and my professors. I can hear them telling me to keep going, keep creating my art. I am truly grateful for the space and encouragement to continue expressing myself.”

—by Erin Maruoka

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