Four picked for prestigious Rotary scholarships
By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Rod Ohira
The Hawaii Rotary 5000 District has awarded its 2006-07 ambassadorial academic and university teacher scholarships to four Hawai'i residents for study in Jerusalem, England and Venezuela.
While expanding their academic horizons, Christiane Connors of Maunawili, Lee Hiromoto of Wahiawa, Britton Brooks of 'Aiea and Samantha Black of Hilo will give 10 to 15 public presentations about Hawai'i and America as part of their scholarship requirements.
To fulfill her ambassadorial requirement while studying at University of Sussex in Brighton, England, Connors is putting together an eight-minute video presentation of footage she shot of local scenery, ocean sports such as kayaking and paddling, and a lava flow to give her audience a "small taste" of Hawai'i.
"You can't fit Hawai'i into one sentence," Connors said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C., where she is working for the nonprofit National Democratic Institute. "While I would never want to sugar-coat anything, I'm going to show the things we appreciate about Hawai'i. The next step, if they ask questions, I will tell them how it could be better.
"I want to do a second presentation on America, looking at New York and D.C."
Dyana Winkler was also selected as an ambassadorial scholar but the 25-year-old from Kilauea, Kaua'i, will likely turn down the award because she cannot use it to pursue her film studies at a French institute.
Charles Weems, a University of Hawai'i professor of animal science who co-chairs the Rotary district's selection committee with his wife, Yoshie Suzuki Weems, said equal consideration is given to academic excellence and ambassadorial skills in picking the scholars.
"They're all outstanding. They won't get by the committee if they aren't," Weems said. "If a situation like 9/11 occurs and we have kids abroad, we don't want them to cut and run (to come home). That's why we select kids who are very adaptable to be ambassadors for Hawai'i and the U.S.
"When they do their presentations, we want them to tell people about themselves, their families and Hawai'i. They are salespersons for Hawai'i. We've evaluated the kids on community service they've done from high school through college."
The ambassadorial scholarships cover roundtrip airfare, tuition, fees and living expenses. Students can receive up to $26,000 apiece but the exact amount of the awards are still being calculated, Weems said.
All four scholars have outstanding credentials, he said.
She is a former Peace Corps volunteer who taught English as a foreign language in the Central African nation of Gabon from 2003 to 2005.
"At the end of my service, I no longer navigated just as a tourist or as someone with a fleeting curiosity about the people and culture, but as a professional working within an ethnically and historically diverse country," Connors said of her experience in Gabon. "It is from this launching point that I now seek to expand my understanding of this geographical area and to use my grass-roots experience to create an academic basis in anthropology and development work."
"I've always been interested in world and current events," Hiromoto said by telephone from New Haven, Conn. "I'm looking forward to a productive and enlightening year in Jerusalem, where I hope to explore the cultural, linguistic and historical richness of the Middle East."
"I love to study history, our language and how it developed," said Brooks, who teaches English as a second language at a local college.
Brooks, who wants to be a college professor, has done Christian ministry work in Japan and spent last summer studying archaeology at a dig site in Egypt.
In addition to his academic pursuits, he surfs and plays guitar in the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship musical group at UH.
"I am working toward licensure as an expressive arts psychologist," Black said. "I hope to do research in Venezuela on healing through music. I will also be doing volunteer work for Rotary, possibly teaching music at an orphanage."
Winkler, who is working as an au pair in Paris, said she will likely turn down her award because she cannot use it to pursue her film studies at the prestigious Institut National de L'Audiovisuel.
"I feel broken-hearted that I might lose such an amazing chance, but right now, there's no opportunity to study what I was hoping to study that fits the Rotary rules and regulations," Winkler said by phone from Paris.
The INA accepts only six students a year and rarely a foreigner, but Winkler was granted entrance into INA's six-month program in film editing.
A Kapa'a High graduate, Winkler earned a degree in economics and Asian studies from 169-year-old Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., the nation's oldest continuing institution of higher learning for women. Winkler became interested in filmmaking when she produced a documentary in 2002 while studying in Nepal and volunteering at an orphanage. Winkler returned to Asia in 2004 to work in Bhutan. She has learned enough Nepali and Dzongkha, the language of Bhutan, "to get by."
Rotary 5000 district governor Rosalyn "Roz" Cooper called the scholar program "the biggest indication of the continued belief and faith that the students who are ambassadorial scholars today will be our leaders of tomorrow, both at home and around the world."
Reach Rod Ohira at email@example.com.