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Since first grade, Makana Tavares remembers having a love for learning. At 17 years old, she is a senior at Kanu o ka ‘Aina and poised to make her move into the bigger world.
“I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up,” said Tavares. “That’s why I’m taking a liberal arts course of study in college.”
Tavares has been a student at Kanu o ka ‘Aina charter school her entire life. Saying the school has given her a firm understanding of her culture, she is ready to learn even more.
Her brother Ernest Tavares, a year older, is now attending the University of Pennsylvania on a full scholarship. Tavares said she got the idea to attend the College Horizons program from him.
Held at the University of Hilo, the summer program encourages students to research various universities and colleges as well as develop relationships with college counselors.
“During Horizons, I met one of the representatives from Brown University and we really hit it off,” Tavares explained. “They offer an open curriculum and tailor the education to meet the needs of the student.”
After applying to seven universities, Tavares was amazed to find that she was accepted to every one of the schools for which she applied. She chose to attend Brown University, an Ivy League school located in Providence, R.I.
“The whole process was amazing and it was hard to choose from the schools,” said Tavares. “I’m really excited.”
Tavares graduates with 10 other students this year. Two of the seniors will go to college here on Hawaii Island, and she is the only one who will attend a mainland university.
Kanoa Castro, a Kanu O Ka Aina teacher of language arts, social studies and art elective said Tavares is brilliant with words.
“She can take complex subjects and make them simple,” Castro said of Tavares. “When put on the spot, she doesn’t hesitate. She is a quiet leader.”
Saying the school lays a solid foundation for their students, Castro said, “Students can envision their future when they know where they come from. I think they get that here.”
Tavares’ mother, Roxann Alama, has been very supportive of both her children. As a single parent, she runs her own cleaning business and for years, has driven daily from Kona to Waimea for her work accounts, as well as to keep her children in Kanu.
“It’s mind blowing that Makana is going to an Ivy League school,” Alama said. “I feel that instead of being a pushy mother, I’ve been a more relaxed mother and feel that they will reach their success by letting them choose what they want to do.”
Tavares said even if she had chosen to be a beach bum as her life course, her mother would have been supportive.
“I’ve told my daughter that I’m really proud of her achievements, but even more, I’m proud of her as a whole person,” Alama said.
Congratulations to all the 2013 graduates of Kanu o ka ‘Aina.