Our Award Recipients

Since 2006, Growing Our Own Teachers on Kauai has provided scholarships to more than 90 student teachers. These scholarships help the teacher candidates finish their final semester and go on to become teachers in our local schools. More than 88% of those teachers are still teaching here on Kauai! Some of our more recent recipients share their thoughts about how our scholarships helped them. We would like to be able to help even more student teachers like these.

Mary Theresa Cabanatan – Spring 2024

I am currently a UH Manoa student working towards my Bachelor’s degree majoring in the BED Blended Elementary Education/SpEd program. Receiving this grant will definitely help me with tuition, materials, and textbooks expenses. Thank you to the support of the many donors for making this possible! I can’t wait to pursue a career in education and to make a difference in the lives of the students. 

Kaylee Langtad – Spring 2024

I am so grateful to be a recipient of the Growing Our Own Teachers On Kauai Scholarship. Receiving this scholarship will help me tremendously when completing my final semester student teacher. This scholarship has lift the financial burden of worrying how I was going to work to make money while student teaching. This will now allow me to fully focus on learning as much as I can during my last semester before I become a teacher. 

Malina Folsom – Fall 2023

I am incredibly grateful for the scholarship that I have been awarded. This opportunity has not only alleviated the financial burden of pursuing a teaching career but has also affirmed the belief in my potential. This scholarship represents more than just financial support; it is an induction to a community with which I am invested in. With this assistance, I can now fully immerse myself in my student teaching semester. Graduate school and teaching simultaneously consume a lot of resources such as time, energy and finances.I am determined to make the most of this chance by dedicating myself to academic excellence and giving back to the community that has supported me.

Chazlyn Harada – Fall 2023

I am truly honored to share how profoundly the scholarship award has influenced my academic journey. Pursuing my Masters degree has been a significant undertaking, and this scholarship has provided me with invaluable support and motivation along the way. Beyond the financial assistance, this scholarship represents a collective effort to nurture and uplift aspiring scholars like myself. As the Hawaiian saying goes, “Aʻohe hana nui ke ʻalu ia” – no task is too difficult or large when done together. This scholarship embodies that spirit of unity and shared purpose, reminding me that with the support of a community that believes in my potential, I can overcome any challenge and strive for excellence.

The impact of this scholarship reaches far beyond financial relief. It serves as a symbol of recognition for my dedication and hard work, inspiring me to channel my efforts into mastering my field of study. With the burden of financial worries eased, I am able to dedicate more time and energy to engage in meaningful research, enriching academic pursuits, and collaborations with fellow students and mentors. This scholarship has fostered a sense of belonging within the academic community, reinforcing my commitment to becoming the best Kumu I can be. The belief that others have in my journey empowers me to embrace challenges head-on and work towards achieving my dreams together with those who have supported me.

In a world where the pursuit of higher education can be daunting, this scholarship stands as a testament to the power of collective effort. Just as the wisdom of “Aʻohe hana nui ke ʻalu ia” suggests, when we come together, no task is insurmountable. The generosity behind this scholarship not only aids my educational endeavors but also reminds me that I am part of a community that values education and growth. With each step forward in my academic pursuits, I carry the spirit of this saying in my heart, knowing that with support, determination, and collaboration, even the most challenging goals can be achieved. My profound gratitude for this scholarship extends beyond words, as it embodies the belief that, together, we can overcome obstacles and reach new heights.

Chandlyn Harada – Fall 2023

“ʻO ke kahua ma mua, ma hope ke kūkulu.” This wise ʻolelo noʻeau resonates deeply with my journey as I approach the culmination of my Masters in Education, specializing in teaching Elementary students. The scholarship I’ve been privileged to receive has breathed life into this proverb, serving as the foundational “kahua” that came before, allowing me to build confidently towards my aspirations.

In this pivotal final year of my program, the scholarship’s impact reaches far beyond financial relief. It becomes the firm “kahua” upon which I’ve been able to focus, refine, and elevate my teaching practices. By lightening the load of financial worries, the scholarship has created the space for me to delve into my studies, enriching my understanding of effective pedagogies and innovative classroom strategies. It’s not just about the immediate support, but the lasting influence that will shape my teaching journey long into the future.

As I stand on the threshold of entering the world of elementary education, armed with the insights and skills cultivated during my master’s journey, I am invigorated by the prospect of positively impacting young minds. The scholarship embodies the essence of “ʻO ke kahua ma mua, ma hope ke kūkulu,” acting as the guiding foundation that precedes the construction of a fulfilling educational path. With heartfelt gratitude, I am excited to translate the benefits of this scholarship into nurturing the growth of future generations, and to continually embody the belief that education has the power to transform lives.

David Ochoco – Spring 2023

I am incredibly grateful to receive a financial stipend from Grow[ing] Our Own Teachers on Kauai. Thanks to the support of their many donors, I can wholeheartedly focus on becoming an elementary educator without worrying about how I will fund my student teaching semester. Thank you for supporting me and other aspiring teachers as we strive to give back to the Kaua’i community and make a difference in the lives of our students.  

Kristy Kinimaka – Spring 2023

I’m Kristy Kinimaka, a Spring 2023 recipient of the Grow[ing] Our Own Teachers on Kauai scholarship. I began my journey towards becoming a teacher as a volunteer in my child’s 1st grade classroom. From there I became a substitute teacher. After seeing the need for teachers in the schools, I decided to pursue my teaching certificate. Therefore, I see myself as a true definition of “grow our own teachers.”

I am so grateful for the kokua that Grow[ing] Our Own Teachers on Kauai provides. This scholarship will help me while I pursue my student teaching enroute to becoming a Kauai teacher. 

Mahalo nui loa

Hayley Deaton – Spring 2023


Receiving the Growing Our Own Teachers On Kauai (GOOTOK) scholarship has given me the confidence to finish this last semester of student teaching to reach my goal of a Bachelors’ degree in Elementary Education. Their investment in my education proves that us young future teachers are worth supporting and are needed. It also shows that this program believes in me and wants to see me succeed. The scholarship has allowed me to dedicate this semester to finishing my degree and not worry about the financial burdens or worries that student teaching 5 days a week (without pay) will bring. Before I was granted this scholarship, I was worried if I would be able to finish this degree because I would be working months without pay and still have my life expenses to take care of. Now that I have been so graciously awarded this, my mind is more at ease with finances and I can just focus on finishing this degree to begin my dream career.

Brendan Smith – Spring 2023


Thank you for your gracious contribution to support my journey to become a teacher here on Kauaʻi. 

I am deeply touched by the spirit of generosity I have received here. Individuals who have offered me guidance on my path, invited me to share meals, and introduced me to others who might help take me further. I truly do not have words for it.

I feel as though the best thing for me to do is to embody the same spirit, to pay it forward.

I imagine all of those who have put love, energy, and support into me over the years. I feel it is now my turn to reciprocate, to put that love, energy, and support back into the community. I feel deeply connected to the community here in Kauaʻi, specifically the communities on the South and West side. I very much look forward to deepening my relationship to this place and its people.

I hope to honor the spirit of your kind organization as a GOOTK scholarship recipient working with Waimea High School and the West side communities.

Audra Bradshaw – Fall 2022

Jordan Cox – Fall 2022

The opportunity to receive this scholarship from Growing [Our Own] Teachers o[n] Kauai means a great deal to me. I could use any type of financial help at the moment. Financially it is tough in the start of the process in pursuing a career in education. I am very fortunate and grateful for growing teachers of Kauai to help me along the way in pursuing a career in education.”

Brayley Cabreros – Spring 2022

I am a UH Manoa Student earning my Bachelors degree in the BED Blended Elementary Education/ SPED program. After successful completion of the program, I will be eligible to teach Preschool through 3rd grade, and/or Special Education. Being able to apply for grants such as [the] Growing Our Own Teachers on Kauai grant, is very helpful for students like myself.

I would like to make a difference in the lives of children by making them feel important, nourished, cared for, and teaching them social skills while they are at school. I hope by doing this they will have a better learning outcome as well as learn to treat others with respect out in the community. 

Kaeley Yamamotoya – Spring 2022

Having financial assistance for my student teaching semester would help my parents out tremendously and they won’t have to worry about budget cuts that they have to make just to help pay for my school tuition.  

…being a teacher means the world to me because these will be the next generation and being able to prepare them for their future makes me passionate about molding their minds to become a successful learner. 

Jacqueline Lahela Bernaldes – Fall 2021

I am ever grateful for your Kokua in Assisting this very crucial part of my Education.  Leaving the security of my Secular work to take this leap to further my education is extremely nerve racking especially for a single parent like me. This assistance assures me that my financial obligations regarding my family will be taken care of for the short period that I take a leave from my employer.  Mahalo Piha GOOTOK! 


George Tory Singer – Fall 2021

The accumulated influence of the sacrifice of many wonderful teachers over the years is why I wrote to you. In the same way so many teachers have inspired me throughout my life, I am resolved to be a teacher who serves as a light and an inspiration to students in Kauai for their holistic welfare. 

Any financial assistance my family … receive[s] from Growing Our Own Teachers On Kauai [is] an immense blessing. 

Athelstane Schott – Fall 2021 

This scholarship is a gift from all hard-working people who value the importance of education and the future of our next generation. I am truly grateful to receive it to help me become an instrument of their vision. Mahalo Nui Loa.

Jennifer Hreljac – Spring 2021

Marissa Hesapene – Spring 2020

Ciara Delos Reyes-Caires – Spring 2020

Receiving this financial assistance, I am able to worry less on finances and focus more on being the best teacher at school and the best mother at home because children deserve the very best in life. 

Kimi Nagahisa – Fall 2020 

There are not enough words to express the gratitude I have for the Growing Our Own Teachers on Kaua’i (GOOTOK) organization.  For years, I postponed the completion of my special education teaching degree due to financial constraints.  In this time of uncertainty, this grant has not only made it possible for me to complete my schooling, but it has also lifted a heavy weight off of my shoulders.  I am deeply humbled to be chosen as a recipient of this award and I am beyond grateful that the GOOTOK organization has blessed me with this immeasurable gift—the gift of education.  Their kindness has given me wings to fly in a time when I could barely walk.  For that, I am eternally grateful.

–Kimi W. Nagahisa, M.A.T. Special Education (K-12), Graduate Student

Jaylin Swartz – Spring 2019

This financial assistance means so much to me. I can relieve my cost of living stress and put more effort towards my teaching career.

Ira Lapitan – Spring 2019 

Barbara Bloemke

Sue Ryan

We’d love to hear how our scholarships affected our recipients! Please email your testimonial (brief quote or a short video) about what our scholarship meant to you to testimonials@growingkauaiteachers.org

You can help us help more student teachers like these!