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MEDB Celebrates 35-Year Milestone, High Honors Awarded

August 29, 2017, 10:40 AM HST · Updated August 29, 10:41 AM
Nikki Schenfeld · 0 Comments
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The Maui Economic Development Board’s Ke Alahele Education Fund Benefit Dinner and Auction was held on Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Fairmont Kea Lani.

Renezel Lagran and her Maui Waena Intermediate School science teacher Jennifer Suzuki share a tearful hug after the announcement of Lagran is named winner of the Daniel K. Inouye Innovation Award. “This is why I teach,” said Suzuki of Lagran’s achievements. Photo Courtesy

MEDB says the evening allowed attendees to look back at the organization’s impact over the past 35 years, along with a glimpse of what’s to come.

Over 500 supporters were in attendance, including Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui and his wife Lyndelle, and Mayor Alan Arakawa. By the end of the evening, $325,000 was raised to benefit MEDB and its programs.

“These funds will provide state-of-the-art technology tools for our students and training for our teachers – investments that will make a difference in the lives of our residents and our community,” said Leslie Wilkins, MEDB’s President and CEO. “This year, MEDB has expanded our pipeline of support by adding the Jeanne Unemori Skog Leaders and Entrepreneurs Fund to build the next generation of visionaries.”

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Organization officials said that the new fund in Skog’s name will help support entrepreneur training, mentoring, civic engagement or community leadership development. Skog retired in June after 33 years of service as President and CEO to MEDB.

“I am so grateful to the MEDB board for creating this perpetual Leaders and Entrepreneurs Fund in my name,” said Skog. “My hope is that this fund will give a hand up to youth in our community who dream of becoming an entrepreneur or leader or both and through that journey find fulfilling careers and lives.”

Skog was also honored with the Colin C. Cameron Award, which was presented by Ryan Churchill, Chair of MEDB’s Board of Directors; Effie Cameron Ort; and Mayor Alan Arakawa. Churchill said, “This award is 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.”

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The event culminated with the presentation of the prestigious Daniel K. Inouye Innovation Award by Wilkins; Curtis Tom, MEDB Education Chair; and Irene Hirano Inouye, President of the US-Japan Council. The annual award recognizes outstanding innovation and creative technology to serve the community and is the highest student honor MEDB can give.

This year’s award went to Renezel Lagran, a 2017 graduate of Maui High School who is currently attending UH Maui College. She was nominated by the MEDB Education Committee which kept the announcement a surprise until the award presentation.

Lagran received a standing ovation after sharing her story about her struggles when first coming to Hawai‘i from the Philippines not knowing how to speak English; and how she was able to persevere and flourish as a result of her teachers, mentors, and MEDB who provided her with the confidence, tools and resources to succeed.

Lagran was awarded $5,000 to support tools for her continued STEM education. In addition, the teachers and school labs who inspired her also received grant funds from the Daniel K. Inouye Innovation Award. This year, Maui Waena Intermediate School’s STEMworks™ science teacher Jennifer Suzuki will receive $5,000 for her STEM programs and lab upgrades, and Maui High School’s Arts and Communications teacher Clint Gima and the ACOM program will receive $5,000.

“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.”

For more information and/or to contribute to the MEDB Ke Alahele Education Fund, click here or call 808-875-2300.

Nikki Schenfeld
Nikki joined the Maui Now team in 2016 as a writer/reporter. Originally from Chicago, she has had internships with CBS2 Chicago and Comcast SportsNet Chicago where she had the opportunity to interview some of Chicago's best athletes. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 2010 with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism. She moved to Maui in 2013.
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