Maui News

11 honored with Women of Excellence awards from Committee on the Status of Women

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Maui County’s First Lady Joycelyn Victorino congratulated awardees during a recognition event at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College.

Maui County’s Committee on the Status of Women ended Women’s History month by presenting its semi-annual “Women of Excellence” awards on Tuesday, March 29 at the University of Hawaiʻi, Maui College.  Award recipients were honored as “Maui’s Mana Wahine.” 

This is a celebration, storytelling, deep listening, and reverence. Activating our strengths – together – we are women, here to support each other and raise each other up,” said Committee Chair Kate Griffiths in her opening remarks.

Maui County’s First Lady Joycelyn Victorino congratulated awardees by saying, “I could not be prouder of you Maui Mana Wahine for your dedication and commitment to family, healing, community and career. Women are the backbone of our families and community and our roles have no boundaries. On behalf of all the people of Maui County, mahalo for your contributions and your legacy.” 


The 2022 Women of Excellence, “Maui’s Mana Wahine” recipients are:

Young Woman of Promise (14-21 years old):

  • Makena Sunset Kawaialoha Guzman, Student, Kamehameha Schools, Maui Campus; altar server, usher, and sacred gesture dancer at St. Theresa Church; teacher’s aide for faith formation classes and youth ministry member. At the pandemic’s onset, she led efforts to sew face-masks for health care workers. Volunteers for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Maui and ot plant native plants in Kipuka Olowalu. Member of the National Honor Society, Health Occupation Students of America, Lifeteen, Hawaiian Ensemble, and Hālau Kekuaokalā’au’ala’iliahi. Nominated by Chanel Guzman. 

Women of Excellence (22 years old to 59):

  • Valerie Janikowski, RN, BSN, Founder & Program Director, Lana’i Kina’ole; administrator, grant writer, long term healthcare advocate, compassionate home health care provider. Valerie is at the forefront of patient advocacy through Lana’i Kina’ole, the island’s only licensed home health care agency. Nominated by Councilmember Gabe Johnson.  
  • Adrianne Heely, Judge, District Court of the Second Circuit, Hawaiʻi State Judiciary. Serves on the Hawaiʻi State Supreme Court’s Board of Examiners, former Vice President of the Maui County Bar Association, Hawaiʻi State Bar Association director-young lawyers division, and Hawaiʻi State Bar Association government lawyers section chair. She is an inspiration to young women who aspire to a career that helps women and children as well as young Native Hawaiian women. Nominated by Leo Caires. 
  • Shandell Lehua Kaopio, Program Senior Advisor, GEAR UP, University of Hawaiʻi, Maui College. Volunteer for Boys and Girls Club of Hawaiʻi, Foster Youth Coalition and Kauahea Foundation previous volunteer service to KIDS HURT TOO Maui Economic Opportunity’s youth program. Currently enrolled in the ASU Master’s Program in Indigenous Education. As a tutor, she applies Hawaiian culture, history and values to her teaching in an effort to end discrimination against single mothers. Nominated by Leihua Bissen. 

Unsung Hero (60 years old & up):

  • Gina Gillstrom, Lead Registered Behavioral Technician, Maui Learning Academy. Her commitment to those with special needs makes her an “Unsung Hero.” She often puts aside her own personal needs to help others find solutions to their problems. Nominated by Melody Uluave. 
  • P. Denise La Costa, Real Estate Brokerage Owner, La Costa Realty Hawai’i, LLC; Maui Planning Commission vice chair, West Maui Community Task Force vice president, Maui Chamber Orchestra board member, Dame of Honor with the Orthodox Order of St. John Hospittallers Hawaiʻi Priory, lector and eucharist minister for Maria Lanakila Church, member of the RPAC Presidents Circle, Maui County Commissioner for the Maui Commercial Roundtable president, Hawaiʻi Real Estate Commission member. She is recognized for her selfless work, volunteerism and community service. Nominated by Gayle Shufledt.   
  • Luz Medina,M.D.,  Physician, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Luz Patricia Medina, MD, Inc.; Maui County Medical Society vice president, member of the Hawaiʻi Medical Association Council and Hawaiʻi Medical Association Committee for CME. Saint Anne’s Parish prayer leader, volunteer for Divine Mercy, and choir member, Maui District Health Office of the Department of Health volunteer. She advocates for undocumented women and those coping with domestic abuse and mental illness. Nominated by Antonio Ramil.

 Honorary Historical Award (Posthumous):

  • Linda Higgins, Seabury Hall Librarian Emerita, University of Hawaiʻi Library Advisory Committee member, Carden Academy board member, and University of Hawaiʻi Maui College master gardener. She was a life-long learner, curious, patient, kind and happy help students feel safe and valued. Her steady support and guidance produced many successes and a legacy of warmth, compassion and dedication to service. Nominated by Jessica Crouse 
  • Phyllis McOmber, Creator of Continuing Education and University Extension programs on Lāna’i and Maui Community College/University of Hawaiʻi Maui College; Women Helping Women advocate on Lāna’i, Lāna’i Women’s Center and Lanaians for Sensible Growth board member. Co-founder of E Mālama I Na Keiki O Lāna’i School, Lāna’i Baptist Church organ player Maui County Urban Design Review Board member, Lāna’i Art Program board member, Maui Hotel and Lodging Association advisor. She was driven by her love for her community and her desire to improve life for anyone and a fiercely passionate fighter whose legacy will continue after her several years of service to the Lāna’i Community. Nominated by Councilmember Gabe Johnson. 
  • Sarai Stricklin, Philanthropic Artist andTeacher; She shared her artistic knowledge and time with youth in Hāna, Keʻanae and Molokaʻi by teaching them batik arts. She often donated her hand-painted batik scarves and hand-painted Hawaiian themed apparel to events hosted by the Maui Chamber of Commerce and Maui County Office of Economic Development’s “Made on Maui Festival.” She gave her heart to the community and her spirit lives on as an example of humility, generosity, and love of her community. Nominated by Linda Puppolo.  
  • Terry Jones, Executive Assistant to Maui County Chief of Police: Maui Police Department employee for over three decades and supporter of numerous Maui nonprofit organizations. Troy Barboza Law Enforcement Torch Run organizer to benefit Special Olympics, active volunteer for Women Helping Women, Roselani Place, Relay for Life, Maui Police Relief Association and homeless shelters. She served her community by supporting healing, health, and wellness efforts by putting others above herself. She is remembered for her compassion, volunteerism, spirit, and service. Nominated by Melissa Magonigle.

Other Nominees

  • Stephanie Badillo, Student, Lāna’i High and Elementary School
  • Chloe Shim, Student, King Kekaulike High School
  • Madison Strand, Student, King Kekaulike High School
  • Deborah Ho’ohuli, Director/Head of School, Maui Learning Academy
  • Bobbie-Jo Moniz-Tadeo, Clinical Director/Early Childhood Specialist, Imua Family Services
  • Cara Flores, Founder, Hale Hawaiʻi
  • Edith Nu’u Quintero, Sergeant, Maui Police Department, Domestic Violence Unit
  • Kathryn Kiffmann, Founder/Co-Owner, Kiffmann’s Maui Elite Taekwondo
  • Barbara Vaiaoga, Senior Services Aid II, Department of Housing and Human Concerns 

The Committee on the Status of Women thanks following businesses and individuals for their kōkua and support:  Sherri Reeve Gallery & Gifts, Pohaku Kaho’ohanohano for leis, Emura’s Jewelry, B. Miyo-Onaga Designs, Amy Hānaiali’i Collections & CD,Chloe’s Cupcakes, University of Hawaiʻi Maui Campus – Media Services, and the County of Maui – Office of the Mayor.

The Maui County Committee on the Status of Women is a seven member volunteer group of mayoral appointees that advocates for social justice, educates women on their rights, educates women to vote, engages in political processes, gathers information on women’s issues, promotes women’s equality, and serves as a resource for women through programming, public education, and citizen participation.

Committee Members include Chair Kate Griffiths, Vice Chair Nalana Kaninau, Ki’I Kaho’oho’ohano, Jessica Crosue, Sheron Lehuanani Bissen, Pili Naho’oikaika and Leonora Espaniola.


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