MEDB celebrates 35-year milestone, bestows highest honors

Aug 29, 2017

MEDB Ke Alahele Education Fund Benefit Dinner & Auction held Saturday, August 26th, at the Fairmont Kea Lani Maui showcased an evening of nostalgia — a chance to look back at Maui Economic Development Board’s (MEDB) and their organization’s impact over the past 35 years — along with a glimpse of what’s to come.

The festive event was attended by 500 supporters including Distinguished Educators — Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui and his wife Lyndelle, and Mayor Alan Arakawa; and raised $325,000 to benefit MEDB and its programs.
According to Leslie Wilkins, MEDB’s President and CEO, “These funds will provide state-of-the-art technology tools for our students and training for our teachers — investments that will make a difference in the lives of our residents and our community. And, this year, MEDB has expanded our pipeline of support by adding the Jeanne Unemori Skog Leaders and Entrepreneurs Fund to build the next generation of visionaries.
The new fund in Skog’s name will help to support entrepreneur training, mentoring, civic engagement or community leadership development.
I am so grateful to the MEDB board for creating this perpetual Leaders and Entrepreneurs Fund in my name,” said Skog, former MEDB President and CEO who retired this past June after 33 years of dedicated service to MEDB. “My hope is that this fund will give a hand up to youth in our community who dream of becoming an entrepreneur or leader or both and through that journey find fulfilling careers and lives.

Skog was also honored with the Colin C. Cameron Award, which was presented by Ryan Churchill, Chair of MEDB’s Board of Directors; Effie Cameron Ort; and Mayor Alan Arakawa.  “This award is the highest honor the MEDB board can bestow, to recognize an individual who has made outstanding contributions to strengthen and diversify Maui County’s economy,” said Churchill.
The event culminated with the presentation of the prestigious Daniel K. Inouye Innovation Award by Wilkins; Curtis Tom, MEDB Education Chair; and Irene Hirano Inouye, President of the U.S. – Japan Council and a partner in establishing this Fund in the late Senator’s name. This annual award recognizes outstanding innovation and creative technology to serve our community and is the highest student honor MEDB can give.
This year’s award went to Renezel Lagran, a 2017 graduate of Maui High School who is currently attending the University of Hawaii-Maui College, who was nominated by the MEDB Education Committee which kept the announcement a surprise until the award presentation.

Earlier in the program, Lagran received a standing ovation after sharing her story about her struggles when first coming to Hawaii from the Philippines not knowing how to speak English; and how she was able to persevere and flourish as a result of her teachers, mentors, and MEDB who provided her with the confidence, tools and resources to succeed. Today, this MEDB STEMworks’ alumna is one of the state’s most highly innovative and successful STEM leaders winning multiple awards and recognition both locally and nationally.
Lagran was awarded $5,000 to support tools for her continued STEM education. In addition, the teachers and school labs who inspired the award winner also received grant funds from the Daniel K. Inouye Innovation Award. This year, Maui Waena Intermediate School’s STEMworks™ science teacher Jennifer Suzuki will receive $5,000 for her STEM programs and lab upgrades, and Maui High School’s Arts and Communications teacher Clint Gima and the ACOM program will receive $5,000.
I am so grateful for this honor and award,” said Lagran. “I’ve worked incredibly hard since middle school and have had amazing teachers, mentors and supporters along with amazing STEM opportunities. I’d really like to thank MEDB and their STEMworks™ program for their unending support. Their investment in me will truly reap positive results for Maui and our community.
For more information and/or to contribute to the MEDB Ke Alahele Education Fund, please visit or call 808-875-2300.
The Maui Economic Development Board is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation established in 1982 with a focus on diversifying Hawaii’s economy. MEDB partners with the private, public and nonprofit sectors at the local and national levels to achieve its goals. MEDB’s programs — which are founded on a respect for Hawaii’s culture and precious environment — assist growth industries, educate and train residents for new career pathways, and build consensus in addressing the community’s challenges and opportunities.

The 2017 MEDB Ke Alahele Education Fund Benefit Dinner & Auction event sponsors were:

Principal Sponsor:
Kaiser Permanente
Educator Sponsors:
American Savings Bank
Daniel K. Inouye Legacy Fund
Maui Electric Company
Roy H. Okumura and Lorraine M. Okumura Foundation, founders of Valley Isle Produce, Inc. and Island Grocery Depot
Pulama Lanai
Mentor Sponsors:
Alexander & Baldwin Inc.
Bank of Hawaii
Enterprise Rent-A-Car & National Car Rental
Goodfellow Brothers and Pacific Rim Land
Irene Hirano Inouye
Maui No Ka Oi Magazine
Pacific Defense Solutions
Pacific Media Group
Sempra Renewables
The Maui News
Reception Sponsors:
Aloha Glass Recycling Inc.
First Hawaiian Bank
HouseMart (Ben Franklin Crafts & Ace Hardware HI)
Pasha Hawaii
Tutor Sponsors:
Alakaina Foundation
Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy and The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope
Betsill Brother LLC
Cades Schutte LLP
Central Pacific Bank
Destination Maui Inc. and Kawahara + Hu, LLC
Haleakala Ranch
Hawaiian Telcom
HDR Inc.
Kaonoulu Ranch
Maui County Farm Bureau
Maui Hotel & Lodging Association
Maui Research & Technology Park
Makai Company
McAllister & Quinn LLC
Munekiyo Hiraga
Queen Kaahumanu Center
St. Anthony School
The Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui
University of Hawaii Maui College
University of Hawaii Systems
Wailuku Village People
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Photo credits: Maui Economic Development Board