Challenge asks students for ways to bolster our economy


On behalf of the Maui County Council, I’m pleased to introduce “Imi Pono: The Greatest Challenge” — a contest aimed at inspiring middle and high school students to highlight their bold and innovative solutions to build a sustainable and vibrant economy now and for the future of Maui County.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused havoc in our lives and turned our world upside down. As a community, we are facing staggering unemployment rates, continuous business closures and unprecedented concerns for public health and safety.

Our long history of over dependence on the visitor industry is no longer a viable option for a sustainable economy. This pandemic has abruptly slowed tourism to a trickle, leaving serious damage with no particular timeline for recovery.

A survey of residents was recently conducted to solicit ideas on what Maui County’s “new normal” should look like. We’ve received promising suggestions and comments, but we are now casting a wider net to harness ideas from the minds of our youth. 

We are asking our youth to reimagine, recommit and recreate an idea that has the potential to make things right for Maui County.

These ideas could be the genesis for a new invention, service, technique, application or product that will help bolster Maui County’s economy.

The contest is open to all middle or high school students enrolled in school on Maui, Molokai or Lanai.

Students are being tasked with developing a simple business model, possibly focusing on health care, research and technology, sustainable food supply, culture and the arts, social services, government innovation, affordable housing or a topic of their choice.

To earn extra points for their project, students can describe how their new industry, service or product will:

1. Create well-paying jobs with opportunities for advancement.

2. Generate revenue that will stay in Hawaii.

3. Promote a clean, safe and culturally compatible environment for Hawaii.

4. Reduce our over reliance on the visitor industry.

Videos, slide shows, essays, mock-ups of a product or any other means to demonstrate a project will be accepted. We are encouraging students to be as creative as needed.

In addition to having their voices be heard and paving the way for our future generations to live a full and prosperous life, prizes include gift cards from $1,000 to $2,500.

Applications to participate are due by Oct. 15, and final projects are due on Nov 15.

For more information or to access the application, please visit mauicounty.us /imipono.

* Alice L. Lee is chair of the Maui County Council. She holds the council seat for the Wailuku-Waihe’e-Waikapu residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.


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