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  • Students clearing invasive plants from ua‘u kani burrows
  • Hiking to u‘au habitat
  • Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project
  • U‘au kani

HONOLULU—July 20, 2021—The Hawai‘i Land Trust (HILT), a Hawaiʻi 501(c)3 nonprofit that protects, stewards, and works to connect people to the lands that sustain Hawaiʻi, has partnered with the University of Hawai‘i Maui College (UHMC) on a new environmental stewards leadership program. 

The Ahupua‘a Stewards Leadership Program’s first session started June 8, 2021, and runs through July 29, 2021, offering a first-of-its-kind hands-on experience for high school students on Maui to develop and implement environmental decisions informed by ahupua‘a systems. Originally designed for 24 students, COVID restrictions allowed for 12 students ages 15-18 years old to participate in the twice-weekly classes, which include in-person sessions at the UHMC Kahului campus and field trips to Hawai‘i Land Trust and conservation partner sites on Maui. This includes the Waihe‘e Coastal Dunes & Wetlands Refuge, where students are learning how to use historical ecology. They are also studying the threat of modern disturbances like tsunamis and climate change to guide malama ‘aina. 

“Ahupua‘a Stewards empowers the next generation of Hawai‘i’s leaders to care for and more deeply understand our precious natural resources,” said Laura Kaakua, President and Chief Executive Officer of HILT.  “We are proud to partner with the University of Hawai‘i Maui College to offer classes with a fully covered tuition scholarship and $1,000 stipend upon completion.”

Scott Fisher, Ph.D., Chief Conservation Officer at the Hawai‘i Land Trust, is leading the 8-week curriculum and sessions. 

“There is a strong emphasis on incorporating traditional Hawaiian ecological knowledge into the curriculum,” Fisher said. “Our guest speakers have shared information on the Hawaiian relationship to the land, and how that wisdom can be incorporated into the practice of malama ‘aina.”

Goals of the program include:

  • Fostering Maui Nui sustainability and resilience through ‘āina-based education and indigenous knowledge.
  • Creating opportunities for students to experience a range of hands-on STEM concepts to support career exploration and discovery of their passion and purpose.
  • Cultivating relationships within the system through mentoring with conservation leaders.

“The college is excited to partner with HILT to connect and engage students in experiential learning with conservation leaders across Maui’s diverse ecosystems. By connecting directly with kupuna and other mentors actively working in conservation, the Ahupua‘a Stewards will gain a better understanding of how to envision and pursue academic and career goals that align with their values and malama ‘aina,” said UHMC Chancellor Lui Hokoana. 

Funding for this project was made possible through generous funding from Kamehameha Schools and the Robert F. Orr Foundation.

Emily Severson shows students an ua‘u kani in its burrow on Maui. 

  • Questions? / More Information

    If you would like to learn how you can support UH students and programs like this, please contact us at 808 376-7800 or send us a message.

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    Hawai‘i Land Trust (HILT) is a Hawaiʻi 501(c)3 nonprofit that protects and stewards the lands that sustain Hawaiʻi. Over the past decade, the nationally accredited land trust has protected over 21,500 acres across the islands through land purchases and conservation easements, conserving Hawaiʻi’s coastlines, cultural landscapes, and lands that grow food. For more, visit

    The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. The mission of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation is to unite donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations by raising philanthropic support and managing private investments to benefit UH, the people of Hawai‘i and our future generations.

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