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KS Hawai‘i senior Bram Paikuli is one of 1,000 winners nationwide of the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship.

Hawai'i campus student wins Gates Millennium Scholarship

May 14, 2014

Contributed by Shaundor Chillingworth

In just over a week, senior Bram Paikuli will become an alumni of Kamehameha Schools Hawai‘i. His path to continue his post-high educational journey clearly paved.  

But that’s just the start of a bright future for this exceptional young man.

Paikuli was one of three Hawai‘i students who have been selected as Gates Millennium scholarship awardees this year.   

He joins an elite list of just 1,000 recipients chosen across the U.S. in 2014, out of the 52,000 applications received for the competitive award.

The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) program is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and provides scholarships to minority students with high academic and leadership promise who face significant financial need. Since its inception in 1999, the program has funded more than 16,000 scholars, with the average award around $12,227 per year, according to the scholarship website. 

Originally from Kailua-Kona, Paikuli was admitted to KS Hawai‘i in the sixth grade. His parents, Amy and Mark, decided the opportunity was worth the risk and chose to move the family to Kea‘au.

“It was a big step to move here and start up,” shares Paikuli.

His ‘ohana lived in a tent on land in Hawaiian Paradise Park for the first year as they built their home.

“I’m so thankful to my parents for starting over for me here. I know the education I’ve received here (at Kamehameha), the friends I’ve made and the relationships I’ve made are gonna set me on a path that I know I’ll be in a good place moving forward.”

Paikuli’s plans for the future include enrolling in the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business where he will study Real Estate and Construction Management. His dream is to return home to Hawai‘i and become and entrepreneur, possibly in the solar energy industry, to provide affordable energy and local jobs for families here.

“I am very excited about all the possibilities at DU and in my future!”

Paikuli first learned about the GMS program while attending College Horizons, a college and career readiness workshop aimed at increasing post-high success for Native American and Native Hawaiian students. There, he met a representative who got him excited about the program and its many benefits.

He also credits a wide network of support from his teachers and counselors, as well as a family friend who was also a GMS recipient and Mr. Jim Stubenberg with the Gromet Foundation.

One of those supports for which he is especially grateful, was his counselor Donna Mahuna. And she’s excited for him and what he may be able to accomplish in the future.

“For the past 4 years that I have known Bram, he has consistently been a young man who displayed characteristics of humility, respect and being pono. He is highly motivated and always seeking ways to improve himself, his skills and what he can contribute to his community. Bram is on his way to the University of Denver where he will continue to do great things,” shared Mahuna.

“We are so excited for Bram and his `ohana!”

In addition to the Gates scholarship, Paikuli has also been awarded an HMSA Kaimana Award, Pauahi Foundation Stanley & Besse Fortuna Memorial Scholarship, Dennis Rose Memorial Golf Scholarship, David S. Ishii Foundation Yasuko Asada Memorial College Scholarship Award and many more.  

In applying for all of the scholarships, Bram mentions the many essays he needed to prepare as one of the biggest challenges. Thankfully, he received a lot of preparation through his English class, which allowed him to build a library of essays he could adapt to meet the questions that were asked.

“The most challenging essay was to the one about a challenge I faced or what school subject was the most challenging,” said Paikuli. “To think about the negative side of things was difficult, but I enjoyed it because it opened my eyes as to what I could do better.”

His favorite essay was his personal statement, in which he was able to share more about his family’s transition from Kona to Hilo and the experience of living in the tent for a year.    

His advice to his younger peers when it comes to scholarship applications is to avoid the pitfalls of procrastination and to establish a commitment to service early on.

“College is a huge step in your life and it’s something you need to give a lot of thought,” said Paikuli.

“Get involved with a meaningful community service project that you can do throughout high school, because showing that longevity and commitment to a service project means a lot to a lot of colleges.”

“College is a huge step in your life and it’s something you need to give a lot of thought,” said Paikuli.

Paikuli (center) receives his HMSA Kaimana Scholarship Award.

Bram (top row, third from left) with other 2014 Gromet Foundation Scholarship winners.

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