Abigail Macalintal grew up in Kailua and is a student at the UH Mānoa College of Engineering, majoring in mechanical engineering. She is the recipient of scholarships from the John Y. C. Chang Endowment, the UH System’s Student Success Fund and the Walter and Jeane Lum Scholarship Fund. This is an excerpt from her thank you letter to the donors.
One of the many programs that I am involved in at UH Mānoa is the Native Hawaiian Science and Engineering Mentorship Program (NHSEMP). I wanted to share specific aspects that I enjoy about the program and how it has impacted my experience as a woman in STEM.
“Do you know of any non-invasive herbs and plants that repel African snails?” inquired my mentee, Anela, during our first online meeting together. I sat there pondering, asking myself “What herbs have I used while cooking that have a strong aroma?” After a few minutes, rosemary, cilantro, mint, and many other herbs started bubbling to the surface in my mind. I knew that African snails avoided these plants that have been growing in my grandmother’s garden, which I disclosed to Anela.
Anela was a junior high school student from Lāna‘i High & Elementary School whom I met through the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Native Hawaiian Science & Engineering Mentorship Program (NHSEMP). We were paired to focus on her STEM Capstone project of “Garden Pest Management,” which was particularly oriented to the community living on Lāna‘i. During our time together in the FP 404 Mentorship Program, we focused on brainstorming, implementing, and analyzing Anela’s project, all the while being on two separate islands, Oʻahu and Lāna‘i.
In my first year of college at UH Mānoa, I applied for the NHSEMP program, which is targeted toward reaching out to undergraduate and graduate students who are advocates of the Native Hawaiian culture, leaders amongst their peers and enjoy serving the community. I have been participating in this program for three years now and plan to continue throughout the rest of my college career.
This program ignited a fire within me to involve the Hawaiian culture, language and tradition in my STEM field of mechanical engineering. I noticed this passion when I first began to volunteer during NHSEMP’s STEM days where we partnered with Na Pua No‘eau (NPN). They provided me with the opportunity to engage with our haumana, students ranging from kindergarten to seniors in high school. I enjoyed incorporating ‘ōlelo Hawaiʻi, the Hawaiian language, as I lead STEM projects such as asking the students questions and having them answer in Hawaiian. It was inspiring to see our new lāhui, generation find a passion that incorporates science, technology, engineering and math into their everyday lives through the small projects that I taught. I volunteered as a kumu to lead the STEM projects with Na Pua No‘eau.
Another aspect of the NHSEMP program that I found a deep interest in was the FP 404 Mentorship Program, where my peers and I would be paired with a high schooler from Lāna‘i High & Elementary School. I met with my mentee once a week for the duration of the school year and would learn about their desire to take action, spread awareness, and provide a feasible solution for their STEM Capstone. I was also given an educational stipend for being a mentor.
Through the NHSEMP program, I discovered that learning at UH Mānoa and majoring in mechanical engineering does not have to be a solo mission. The students and faculty that I have met over the three years not only support me on my journey, but also encourage me to push myself out of my comfort zone. From mentoring a student for the first time, and guiding a STEM project, to volunteering with Ka Papa Loʻi ʻo Punaluʻu, I discovered that being Native Hawaiian has not only opened an abundant number of doors for me but inspired me to give back to my community through everything that I do. The beauty of being a graduate of Kamehameha Schools Kapālama is that wherever I go I have met alumni who are a part of my second ʻohana connected by blood, tradition and beliefs.
To my donors:
Mahalo nui loa donors! I extend my sincere appreciation for your kindness as this will help me to achieve my goal of obtaining a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering. My ʻohana and I are so grateful as it will allow me to pay for my textbooks and material for the 2023-2024 school year. I plan to continue focusing on my studies, engaging in more community activities, and participating in projects within my field of study. Mahalo nui loa!