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A Tradition of Excellence: KCC Prevails Again at National STEM Conference

KCC STEM student Kim Kahaleua was recognized for her Undergraduate Student Presentation in Biology at the SACNAS National Conference which was held October 29-31 in Maryland. This is the third year in a row that a Kapi`olani STEM student has brought home a top honor from this event. Last year Melanie Keli`ipuleole was awarded 1st place for Genetics. The year before, Kaile Costa won for her presentation in the Zoology & Animal SSSL_4754_K-Kalaleua-II(1)cience division.

SACNAS stands for the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science. It is the largest multicultural STEM organization in America.  Each year, SACNAS hosts the Diversity in STEM Conference which serves to, “motivate, inspire and engage participants to achieve their highest goals in pursuing education and careers in STEM fields.”

Kim’s research project, Bacterial Effects of Nīoi (Capsicum frutescens) attempts to bridge what the ancient Hawaiians knew about medicine with modern science. “Nowadays, you go to Longs and they tell you buy an ointment for your cuts, but our ancestors knew just as much. They’d use this plant with other ingredients and would apply it to wounds. It was just as effective.”

A big part of what makes the Kapi`olani STEM Program so successful is its emphasis on undergraduate research. Students are encouraged to take on new and challenging projects. Oftentimes, this leads them beyond their home campus and into more advanced environments to conduct their experiments. For Kim, this meant traveling to the Kaka`ako to work on cell cultures.

“Everything was new to me. Just going to John A. Burns School of Medicine to do my research was pretty awesome. I’ve never worked with cells before; the things I did are usually reserved for grad students or people at a higher level. This was such a great experience!”

Kim would like to acknowledge Dr. Kathleen Ogata (Chemistry mentor), Mrs. Keolani Noa (cultural mentor), Mrs. Nelda Quensell (Botany Faculty Mentor), Project Olona JABSOM partnership and Kamehameha School Extension Education who all contributed to the success of this project.

Dr. Kathleen Ogata says, “She’s the one who did the work. She is a Native Hawaiian scientist who is validating the knowledge of La`au Lapa`au (Hawaiian medicine) with scientific research. This is a huge accomplishment in bridging different fields.”

UH Mānoa Transfer Fair

When: Wednesday September 30th
Where: ʻŌhiʻa Cafeteria

Visiting programs include:
College of Education
College of Social Sciences
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
Department of Biology/Life Science
Information and Computer Sciences
Honors Program
Matsunaga Institute for Peace Studies
Medical Technology
Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work
Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center
School of Ocean and Earth Science and Techonology

A Decade of Success: The KCC STEM Summer Bridge Program

For the past ten years, the Kapi‘olani Community College Summer Bridge Program has been helping students with their transition into college. It began in 2005 with a grant from the National Science Foundation and the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program. The aim of this grant was to increase the number of indigenous and underrepresented students in the STEM majors. The first KCC STEM Summer Bridge hosted 23 participants from 16 O‘ahu high schools. This year, 71 students from across the state benefitted from this program.

KCC STEM Outreach Coordinator Keolani “Aunty” Noa has been there from the beginning. She says that, “Summer Bridge is the foundation, the piko – the start – the root of ‘I can, I will, and I am.’ It builds the confidence to find a place and a purpose in college.”  Bridge participants are awarded a full scholarship that covers math course tuition, books, materials and lunch. The program has two tracks: HāKilo (biology, ecology, ocean chemistry) and ‘IKE (engineering) that feature field related project based learning.  Looking at this year’s class of A.S.N.S. Degree graduates, the majority of them got their start in Summer Bridge. A few are truly “miracle” students who had no intention of pursuing a college degree before participating in this program.

None of this would have been possible without all of the Kapi‘olani CC Faculty members who lent their expertise. Austin Anderson (Math), Justin Carland (Engineering), Porscha Dela Fuente (English), Alan Garcia (Microbiology), Aaron Hanai (Engineering), Justin Kong (Math), Wendy Kuntz (Biology), MacKenzie Manning (Biology), Kathleen Ogata (Chemistry), Dennis Perusse (Math), Mike Ross (Botany) and Jacob Tyler (Engineering).

‘IKE student Jack Faatiliga was very appreciative of all the support he received: “The mentors and the faculty really helped us and you felt like they actually wanted to be there. Dennis, (Professor Perusse) sacrificed a lot of his time just to ake sure that not only did we get our work done but that we understood what we were doing.”

HāKilo 1 Participant Jennifer Stockwell said, “I was able to meet new people and make new friends because of the program. It also taught me how to take initiative and become more independent by managing my own time during the math portion.”

It takes a lot of effort to ensure the success of such an ambitious program. After many late nights and long hours, Mrs. Noa remains positive. “My vision is that one day these underrepresented students will become decision makers in the workforce.”

KapCC Students Emerge Victorious From D.C. STEM Conference


Two community college standouts take first place at National Science Conference.

Bryson Racoma and Melanie Keliipuleole brought home top honors at the 2015 Emerging Researchers National Conference (ERN) held from February 19-21 in Washington D.C. Racoma’s poster, ‘NASA Simulation of an Autonomous Payload’ won in the Engineering category while Keliipuleole’s poster on the Hawaiian Shingle Sea Urchin beat out all other entries in the Genetics field.

The ERN Conference in STEM targets graduate and undergraduate students participating in programs funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Human Resource Development (HRD). Both William Kaeo III and Bryson Racoma received scholarships to attend this year’s forum.  Also selected to present was Jennifer Wong-Ala for her research on the effects of Agriculture upon the nutrient cycle of streams.


Melanie Keliipuleole has been selected to present her research to members of the U.S. Congress at the 19th annual ‘Posters on the Hill’ event. Her project on the Hawaiian Shingle Sea Urchin was one of only 60 in the nation to be chosen to speak directly to lawmakers and grant funders by the Council of Undergraduate Research (CUR).  Only one other project from a Community College will be included and no other Hawaii institutions will be represented. CUR was established to support and promote undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research.  Melanie’s faculty mentor for this project was Biology Professor MacKenzie Manning.

Department of Native Hawaiian Heath 2015 Summer Research Internship Program

Aloha mai kakou,

  The deadline to apply for the Department of Native Hawaiian Health’s 2015 Summer Research Internship Program is quickly approaching (FEBRUARY 27, 2015). The program is designed to expose college and university students to clinical, community-based, or translational research and its role in the field of medicine. It provides hands-on experience to discover how research can be integrated into a medical career.

  For those interested, please complete and submit the attached application form by the February 27, 2015 deadline.

For more information contact Crystal Morton at or Mona Cardejon at