Molokai High's Kilo Gonzales accustomed to blazing trails

03-Jan-2014

Molokai High Senior Kiloaulani Kaawa-Gonzales is one in 7 billion. The only person on this planet with such first and last name combination, Kilo, as he’s called, is used to being a trailblazer.

Raised on the rural east side of Molokai, the 17-year-old of Hawaiian, Filipino, Puerto Rican and Cuban heritage has been where few teenagers have gone before. Currently near the top of his Class of 2014 at Molokai High, Kilo is hoping to study Natural Resources Management and Ecosystem Science and Sustainability at either the University of Hawaii at Hilo or Colorado State University.

Academic success and versatility started early for him. Kilo spent his first seven years (K-6) in the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program at Kula Kaiapuni on Molokai. Even when he boarded at Kamehameha on Oahu during his 7th grade year, Kilo excelled in balancing academics and volleyball before returning the following year to the public school system, where he has been able to take advantage of all of the educational opportunities presented to him. Today, he is trilingual – able to communicate in English, Hawaiian and Spanish.

Driven by the Hawaiian proverb “Hahai no ka ua I a ulula‘au,” which means “the rain follows after the forest,” Kilo is committed to exploring ways he can help preserve the forests of Hawaii to ensure the sustainability of the Islands’ water sources for generations to come. He shares the proverb’s deeper meaning — if the forests of Hawaii are destroyed, the rain will cease to fall, and the land of his ancestors will become deserts.

To help achieve this goal of preserving and protecting the environment around him, Kilo enrolled in his school’s Natural Resources Pathway — part of the DOE’s Career and Technical Education program. The classes implement aquaculture as well as traditional and terracing farming techniques through partnerships with local farmers and environmental specialists on Molokai. Students in this program also gain hands-on experience in preparing, caring for, and harvesting produce such as sweet Maui onions.

“The environment of our small, rural island forces us to focus on sustainability issues,” observed Kilo. “Food production and energy supply are two major topics that our community is involved in. During my college studies I hope to learn about creative and innovative solutions to help solve these challenges while developing a future career.”

He is already well on his way to a bright future. Kilo received a scholarship to study abroad last summer, and ventured to Costa Rica for a month to study carbon footprint data and ecosystem sustainability issues. The international experience allowed him to learn about projects being developed in Latin America that could potentially be applied here in Hawaii. He further parlayed that experience to encourage his fellow youth to pursue international travel opportunities by forming a Pacific and Asian Affairs Council Club at Molokai High.

Last fall, Kilo became one of 80 students around the country to receive a $10,000 scholarship from Nordstrom. The upscale retailer awards annual scholarships to students who demonstrate outstanding scholastic achievement, community involvement and are planning to apply for financial aid for college. He is also a finalist for a relatively new scholarship being offered by The Coca-Cola Company and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund for college-bound Latino students.

“While I have developed a personal motivation and desire to pursue a college education, I have become aware that many of my teenage peers lack plans to pursue higher education and many don’t even think they could if they tried,” said Kilo.

Kilo believes it’s time for a change in attitude. It couldn’t come from a better person, who is living each day to change the world, one person at a time.

Contact Information

Communications and Community Affairs Office

Phone: 808-586-3230

Email: doe_info@hawaiidoe.org

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