Hawaii’s Youth Will Raise Hawaii’s Global Prominence
Recently, I attended the Hawaii STEMworks conference at the Hawaii Convention Center. There were plenty of memorable moments to reflect on. What stood out to me was listening to the legendary aquatic explorer, Nainoa Thompson.
In this post, I will first talk about my experience, in Hawaii, the Hokulea, Lacy Veach, and STEMworks. These topics show how and why Hawaii needs to be a global leader in education.
My Experience as a Native Hawaiian
As a Native Hawaiian, it has been discouraging to see the decline of Kanaka Maoli. In education, we tend to fall behind other groups. Also, regarding earnings or net worth, we are among the lowest in the country, even considering our small percentage of the population.
Challenges for Hawaii
Furthermore, Hawaii’s people have challenges: Native Hawaiian and otherwise. Hawaii’s modern population has an array of imminent obstacles to contend with. According to the NAEP, Hawaii ranks among the lowest states regarding reading and writing (https://www.nationsreportcard.gov). We have a problem. At the STEMworks conference, we discussed many solutions.
The Hokulea’s Significance
The Hokulea is best known for her 1976 Hawaiʻi to Tahiti voyage completed exclusively with Polynesian navigation techniques. The journey was credited to the Polynesian Voyaging Society. I have always appreciated the plight of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS). However, I have never been able to intellectually connect PVS with Hawaii advancing their achievement in the sciences. After all, the goal of the Hokulea was to implement ancient technology. Moreover, I saw PVS as an organization that seeks to empower Hawaiians by giving them a sense of historical pride in their ancestors. The above motivators are fantastic, but the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s mission is much more.
Legendary Hokulea voyager Nainoa Thompson was a speaker at the 2019 STEMworks conference. Nainoa told us about his dear friend, Colonel Lacy Veach. Veach was a Punahou graduate who had served both as a military pilot and astronaut. Nainoa said that Veach was his hero even before they had met. Veach postulated a strong connection between ancient Hawaiian voyaging and space exploration. The Hawaiians were master explorers.
To express Nainoa’s connection to Lacy, I will include some words directly from Nainoa about Lacy.
Hawaii’s Second Astronaut
Lacy was Hawai’i’s second astronaut with NASA after Ellison Onizuka, and he flew on two missions of the space shuttle Columbia. He loved Hawai’i and its voyaging canoes and immediately saw the connection between these canoes and Hawai’i’s future. Lacy could stow away an adze stone from his grandfather on one of his shuttle flights. The stone came from Keanakako’i, an adze quarry located 12,500 feet up on the slopes of Mauna Kea, a special place where ancient Hawaiians worked in sub-zero temperatures to make adzes; Lacy took a photo of his adze floating in space with Mauna Kea behind it framed by the cockpit window, as he was flying 160 miles above the earth.
Great Challenges Ahead
Lacy passed away a year and a half ago from cancer. Before he died, he told me, “Nainoa, you can never believe the beauty of island Earth until you see it in its entirety from space.” He was the world’s greatest optimist, but he always felt a great concern over the imbalance between human needs and the limited resources of our small planet, over the danger of exponential population growth and depletion of natural resources to support that growth. He would talk about how the 21st century would be very different from our century. Significant challenges would be ahead; there would be places on this planet that will be a high standard by our definition of quality of life.
An Entire Planet in One Vision
On one of his shuttle flights, a fellow crew member woke Lacey up and told him to look out the window–they were passing over the Hawaiian Islands. Lacey could see all the Islands, and he could see his whole spirit and soul here. He saw the entire planet in one vision. “The best place to think about our planet’s fate is here in the islands. If we can create a model for well-being here in Hawai’i, we can contribute to the entire world.” He wanted to come home.
You’ve Got to Believe in Your Dreams
On his visits to the islands, he talked with schoolchildren. On one holiday, a child went up to him and poked him. I heard him tell another child, “I’m just checking to see if he’s real.” And then another child asked him, “What does it take to be an astronaut?” And Lacey said, “You’ve got to believe in your dreams, and you’ve got to be hard-headed enough never to let them go.”
Help Children Who Want to Learn
One day he told me, “I’m going to fly twice in the shuttle. Then I’m coming home.” He’d been away from Hawai’i since high school. “I’m coming home to help children who want to learn.”
by Nainoa Thompson
The above passage and image are an excerpt paraphrase from archive.hokulea.com.
Lacy’s Dream Realized
Lacy never had the opportunity to build a school. However, Nainoa Thompson believes that STEMworks has fulfilled Lacy’s mission for a school.
New Challenges for the Youth of Hawaii
I have been working for STEMworks over the past school year. Most STEMworks teachers are full-time teachers. STEMworks has allowed me to reacquaint myself with Hawaii public schools. I teach video production and photography at Kalama Intermediate. I see a younger version of myself in my students. Many of the circumstances of my youth were less than ideal. Additionally, the k-12 student of today is facing many hurdles that I did not have to contend with.
The Paradox of Technology
Technology can be either detrimental or helpful. Our children have more responsibility than we could have ever imagined. Previous generations have left many challenges for Hawaii’s next generation: climate change, food sovereignty, plastic waste, dying coral reefs, and more issues are on the way. Thus, despite the challenges set for our children, my experience with STEMworks has made me optimistic for the future. I believe that in my life, Hawaii will be a key player in contributing to worldwide prosperity.
The Hope of Hawaii is in Our Youth
I feel pride that we are the seafaring masters of the Pacific. Similarly, I look forward to the satisfaction I will feel when we are global technological and social leaders.
Mahalo for Reading
If you are a parent in Hawaii, please reach out to STEMworks. The contact form below will send a message directly to a STEMworks representative. Also, you are welcome to use the form if you want to contact STEMworks for general inquiries. Feel free to visit their webpage as well if you enjoyed this post. Please leave a comment or share.