Honoka’a High School senior Keilani Steele will receive the first-ever Hokūala Scholarship award to major in astronomy at a college of her choice.

Steele is a PISCES Women’s STARS (STEM Aerospace Research Scholars) Program alumnus and landed the scholarship through her leading-edge research in the Maunakea Scholars program. Last year, she received observing time at Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and recently completed another run of observing at W.M. Keck Observatory—research opportunities that professional astronomers compete for worldwide. She is now preparing for her first year in college to become an astronomer at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.

“I believe studying in the hotspot of astronomy activity is the best thing one can do while pursuing a career involving the cosmos,” said Steele.

Steele completed the 2017 STARS Program along with 10 other Hawaiʻi island high school women, which provided connections for her academic goals in astronomy.

“The STARS program provided tremendous aid in realizing my goals and aspirations as well as helping me connect with wonderful people in the astronomy community,” she said.

The Hokūala (or “rising star”) Scholarship is a new addition to the Maunakea Scholars program and will be awarded annually to one or more outstanding seniors who want to study astronomy in college. For University of Hawaiʻi students, the scholarship includes mentorship by a leader in Maunakea astronomy for the duration of their undergraduate education.

Steele received news of the award during a presentation of her research at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in July 2018.