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Ke Alahele Education Fund Dinner a Record-Breaker

August 30, 2012
The Maui Weekly

What percentage of the Earth's water can be used for drinking?

Fifth-grader Alexa Justus of Ha'iku Elementary School held the answer as she tested an audience of 700 at last Saturday night's benefit for the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) Ke Alahele Education Fund.

The question, and then the answer--less than 1 percent--was posed by Alexa during the fundraiser segment titled, "Who is Smarter than a STEM 5th-grader?"

Article Photos

Hawai‘i U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and his wife, Irene Hirano, listen to Kihei Charter Middle School student Kai Sears as he explains how he uses iPads to explore lessons in renewable energy. Sears and his classmates were amongst several groups with featured exhibits at Maui Economic Development Board’s Ke Alahele Education Fund dinner held Saturday at the Grand Wailea Resort.
Photo courtesy of MEDB

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math--all subjects important for developing a strong workforce for Maui's future in high-technology industries.

At the Ke Alahele dinner held on Aug. 18, at the Grand Wailea Resort, guests were paired off into teams and challenged to respond to science and math questions posed via video by island fifth-graders. As the game hosts, Mayor Alan Arakawa and his wife, Ann, cheered on the record crowd celebrating MEDB's 30th anniversary.

"Keep up the good work," Anne told the crowd, as teams huddled together to pick the correct multiple-choice answer. "It's a reminder how important STEM education is to the community," the mayor said, as he wrapped up a game that inspired lots of competitive fun and laughter.

The 2012 Ke Alahele fundraiser garnered the most money raised in its history--$338,046. Proceeds from the Ke Alahele Education Fund dinner are used by MEDB to support and administer MEDB-led STEM educational programs and to provide grants for the expansion science, technology, engineering and math educational initiatives. To date, the fund has empowered more than 38,700 students and teachers in Maui County.

Long-time MEDB supporter U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who headlined the event with his wife, Irene Hirano, received a standing ovation. Sen. Inouye fielded questions from event emcees Bryce Ribucan, a 2010 Maui High School graduate, and Lindzi Takasaki, an eighth-grader at Lokelani Intermediate School.

"How was homework done without Google?" Takasaki asked.

"Thank God we didn't have Google," Inouye joked. "I wouldn't know what to do with it."

Inouye predicted a "good future" for the young Takasaki and Ribucan, a mechanical engineering major in college, and applauded MEDB backers for rallying behind the nonprofit's projects--especially ones that help young people.

"You've inspired them," Sen. Inouye said. "You've given them hope."

MEDB President and CEO Jeanne Skog thanked the Maui community and leaders in both the public and private sector for their monetary support.

"I promise you it's going to be put into good use," Skog said.

MEDB is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation established in 1982 with a focus on diversifying Maui's economy. MEDB partners with the private, public and nonprofit sectors at the local and national levels to achieve its goals. MEDB's programs--which are founded on a respect for Hawai'i's culture and precious environment--assist growth industries, educate and train residents for new career pathways, and build consensus in addressing the community's challenges and opportunities.

MEDB is governed by a 36-member board of directors drawn from business, government, academia and nonprofit organizations.

For more information, call 875-2300, or visit:



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