Honoka’a High School senior Keilani Steele will receive the first-ever Hokuala 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 Hawaii 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 Hawaii Island high school women, and 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 Hokuala (or “rising star”) Scholarship is a new addition to the Maunakea Scholars program and will be awarded once a year to one or more outstanding seniors in the program who plan to study astronomy in college. For University of Hawaii students, the scholarship award also includes mentorship from a leader involved in Maunakea astronomy for the duration of each recipient’s undergraduate education.

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