Seniors from Lanai and Maui High schools will have their college tuitions covered as winners of the highly competitive and coveted Gates Millennium Scholarships.
Tyler Vega Pascua, a senior at Lanai High and Elementary, and Kailey Rishovd, a senior at Maui High, earned two of the 1,000 "good-through-graduation" scholarships presented out of an applicant pool of 52,000. It was one of the most competitive candidate groups in the 14-year history of the scholarship, funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, according to a news release from Pulama Lana'i that announced Pascua's selection.
Pascua is Lanai's first Gates Millennium Scholar, according to the news release. She was recognized for her community service, academic achievements and leadership skills as student body president.
"Going to college has always been a goal of mine, and I am so grateful to receive the Gates Millennium Scholarship," said Pascua. "Now, my dream is not just possible, it's attainable."
She plans to attend the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the fall with the goal of becoming a nurse and returning to work at the Lanai Community Hospital.
Her extracurricular work includes volunteering as a peer mentor for the school's College+Career Network, a resource brought in by Pulama Lana'i this year to help students envision and pursue post-high school opportunities with a goal of having them return to the island to work in high-tech, high-paying jobs.
"Tyler's determination and hard work are an inspiration to all of us on Lanai," said Elton Kinoshita, principal of the school. "We also thank Pulama Lana'i and the College+Career Network for supporting Tyler and other high school students with college and career counseling resources that have exposed them to a number of opportunities that they may not have been able to pursue otherwise."
Pascua and Rishovd were two of three Hawaii students to earn the scholarship, established in 1999 to provide outstanding African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Island American and Hispanic-American students with an opportunity to complete an undergraduate college education. Continuing scholars may request funding for graduate degree programs in computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health or science.
Rishovd already is eyeing the continuing education grant. Her goal is to become a pediatric heart surgeon.
She will soon have one year toward an associate's degree under her belt through the University of Hawaii Maui College. Next school year, Rishovd plans to attend Cerro Coso Community College in Mammoth, Calif., to complete her AA, then enroll in a University of California school, hopefully Berkeley, she said.
Rishovd, who turned 17 in January, completed 7th grade by day at Lokelani Intermediate and 8th grade by night online through Keystone Academy. Currently, she works 35 hours a week at Seafantaz and is virtually a full-time student at UH-MC while also attending Maui High.
"What drives me to do it (is) . . . to get to my career as soon as I can," she said. "I like challenging myself."
And she still has time to "go out with my friends," she said, adding, "I live a normal life."
While she felt "confident about it" and "thought I had a pretty good chance," winning the Gates scholarship was a "huge surprise," Rishovd said.
"I don't think anyone thinks they are going to get a scholarship that pays" for their entire college tuition, maybe for 10 years of school in her case, she said.
Without the scholarship, her college and career goals would have been difficult to achieve. "It takes a burden off the shoulders of me and my family," she said.
"Now that I have the scholarship, it opens a ton of doors."
* Lee Imada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.