UH-MC student honored by MEDB

Renezel Lagran (center) is congratulated after winning the Maui Economic Development Board’s Daniel K. Inouye Innovation Award at the Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui, on Aug. 26 The announcement was a surprise to Lagran. Presenting the award are MEDB CEO Leslie Wilkins and Curtis Tom, MEDB Education Committee chairman. -- Maui Economic Development Board photo

A University of Hawaii-Maui College student who has captured honors in the science, technology, engineering and math fields while dealing with the challenges of emigrating from the Philippines was named the Maui Economic Development Board’s Daniel K. Inouye Innovation Award winner.

Renezel Lagran received her $5,000 award at the MEDB Ke Alahele Education Fund Benefit Dinner and Auction on Aug. 26 at the Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui, in Wailea. She was nominated by the MEDB Education Committee and was not aware of her selection for the award, which recognizes innovation and creative technology to serve the community, until it was announced.

Earlier in the evening, Lagran received a standing ovation after sharing her story about her struggles when first coming to Hawaii from the Philippines and not knowing how to speak English. She said she was able to persevere and flourish as a result of her teachers, mentors and MEDB; they all provided her with the confidence, tools and resources to succeed. She is an MEDB STEMworks internship alumna.

“I am so grateful for this honor and award,” said Lagran. “I’ve worked incredibly hard since middle school and have had amazing teachers, mentors and supporters along with amazing STEM opportunities. I’d really like to thank MEDB and their STEMworks program for their unending support. Their investment in me will truly reap positive results for Maui and our community.”

In addition to Lagran’s award, Maui Waena Intermediate School STEMworks science teacher Jennifer Suzuki and Maui High Arts and Communications teacher Clint Gima, both mentors and teachers of Lagran, received $5,000 each for their programs.

The Ke Alahele event, attended by 500 people including Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui and Mayor Alan Arakawa, was a benefit for MEDB and its programs. About $325,000 was raised, which “will provide state-of-the-art technology tools for our students and training for our teachers,” said MEDB CEO Leslie Wilkins.

MEDB also marked its 35-year anniversary and the retirement of CEO Jeanne Unemori Skog earlier this summer. The organization created the Jeanne Unemori Skog Entrepreneur and Leadership Fund to support entrepreneur training, mentoring, civic engagement and community leadership development.

Skog also received the Colin C. Cameron Award, “the highest honor the MEDB Board can bestow, to recognize an individual who has made outstanding contributions to strengthen and diversify Maui County’s economy,” said Ryan Churchill, chairman of the MEDB Board.

For more information on the MEDB Ke Alahele Education Fund or the Jeanne Unemori Skog Entrepreneur and Leadership Fund, visit www.MEDB.org or call 875-2300. The nonprofit MEDB was established in 1982 with a focus on diversifying Hawaii’s economy. Its programs assist growth industries, educate and train residents for new career pathways, and build consensus in addressing the community’s challenges and opportunities.