Meeting Hawaii Astronomers Inspired One Waiakea High School Student to Follow His Dream

The THINK Fund scholarship from Hawaii Community Foundation made an engineering career possible for him.

Former Waiakea High School student, Lester Iwata, says that Subaru Telescope staff made him think that a career in mechanical engineering was possible. Now his story has come full-circle.

“When I came in contact with the Subaru Telescope I had a crash course about stars, galaxies, and other celestial bodies in the universe. I was left with that feeling of awe, the feeling that makes you want to say ‘wow, that was cool,’ ” Iwata said. “It bolstered my dream of pursuing science and now I’m studying engineering at University of Portland. One day, I want to do the same for Hawaii’s students, because I believe it can inspire them, like how it did for me.”

Iwata is completing his sophomore year of college and he intends to earn his degree in mechanical engineering. THINK Fund at Hawaii Community Foundation is supporting his education with scholarship funding. “Since I was young, I always dreamed of going to college, receiving a degree, and getting the job that I love. With the help of this scholarship, my dream is becoming a reality,” Iwata added. “It is poetic that one Hawaii telescope’s staff inspired my career and another has supported me in the final steps of my journey.”

Thirty Meter Telescope created THINK (The Hawaii Island New Knowledge) Fund to empower Hawaii’s students to succeed in the careers of the future, especially those including science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The fund provides grants and scholarships that help students, teachers and families access educational opportunities.

THINK Fund has distributed more than $5.1 million dollars since 2014. “We are grateful to TMT for their generosity through this fund. They have invested in the development of Hawaii’s students to help them be successful in job sectors that offer higher-than-average pay and career advancement right here in Hawaii,” said Lydia Clements, Vice President of Foundation and Corporate Partnerships. “Lester’s story is one of many THINK Fund student success stories. We expect to see many more in the years to come.”

For more information about THINK Fund, please visit
For more information about Hawaii Community Foundation, visit

Categories: Hawai‘i Gives Back, Stories