New $10,000 Hokuala Scholarship launches with surprise award to Honokaa graduate

  • Keilani Steele is adorned in lei after being awarded the Hokuala Scholarship Thursday night much to her surprise. (COURTESY PHOTO/MAUNAKEA OBSERVATORIES)

HONOKAA — Honokaa High &Intermediate School graduate Keilani Steele is the first Maunakea Scholar to be awarded the new Hokuala Scholarship: $10,000 to attend the college of her choice in pursuit of an astronomy degree.

Thursday night Steele was on stage presenting her leading-edge research at a Maunakea Speakers presentation at Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo when the new scholarship was announced.


The $10,000 Hokuala Scholarship is the latest addition to the Maunakea Scholars program. It will be awarded annually to one or more top performing seniors in the Maunakea Scholars program who are going on to study astronomy in college. For students attending the University of Hawaii, the scholarship award also includes a commitment of mentorship by a leader in Maunakea astronomy throughout each recipient’s undergraduate education.

Steele was selected as the recipient because of her extraordinary work in the Maunakea Scholars program while a junior and senior at HHIS. She is now preparing for her first year of college at UH-Hilo to advance her ambitions to one day become an astronomer.


Last year, Steele received an observing run at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and earlier this month finished another observing run at W. M. Keck Observatory — research opportunities professional astronomers compete for worldwide.

The Hokuala Scholarship was among several surprise announcements shared Thursday night. Another was a new partnership between the Maunakea Scholars program and the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Academy. Starting in the 2018/19 school year, high school students attending Hawaii Island schools hosting the Maunakea Scholars program will be able to take, at no cost, UH online astronomy courses, receiving college credit in the process. A $50,000 grant from Hawaii Community Foundation enabled this expansion of the Maunakea Scholars program.

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