Molokai Grad is National Scholarship Finalist


Photo courtesy of CSU

Molokai High graduate Kiloaulani Kaawa-Gonzales, now a junior at Colorado State University, has been named a finalist for the nationally competitive Truman Scholarship. The award is for undergraduates committed to careers in public service. While at Molokai High, he was he recipient of scholarships from Nordstrom, Coca-Cola and Ka Hikina O Ka La. Now, he’s working to continue his pursuit of excellence through a focus on conservation with cultural awareness.

“There are so many insightful native people that work in the field of natural resources,” he said. “But there is very rarely a chance for them to take a management or advisory role because of the lack of a college degree.”

He hopes to change that, in part by taking in a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates in Hawaii or Puerto Rico through the National Science Foundation. Both programs would allow him to focus on tropical conservation biology. Since elementary school, he’s been interested in invasive species management, according to a Colorado State University (CSU) press release, as well as rare plant species conservation.

At CSU, Kaawa-Gonzales is president of the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences chapter, and serves as the lead student facilitator for SOMOS Rams, a freshman leadership retreat at Estes Park for first-generation Latino students.

“We are really creating a connection with and among the students,” he said. “Their parents have no experience with college or how to navigate all the things that come with college. So we as upper level students help them navigate through college with a goal of everyone graduating with a degree.”

Now, as one of two Truman Scholarship finalists at CSU, Kaawa-Gonzales will find out the results next month. He was one of 768 applicants from 315 institutions this year, and one of 199 students named in the finalist category. According to the Truman Scholarship Foundation, students were selected based on their records of leadership, public service and academic achievement.

According to CSU, only 50 to 60 outstanding undergraduates — approximately one from each state — will receive a $30,000 scholarship to a graduate school of their choice, attend a weeklong leadership training session with other winners from across the country, and have the opportunity to complete an internship in Washington, D.C.


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