Categorized | Education

Scholarship benefits student beekeepers

From left: Chef Alan Wong, Julianna Graper, Tayler Manriki and Brittany Ann Rocha. (Photo courtesy of UH Foundation)


Three UH Hilo students have been selected to receive first-ever awards of the Adopt-a-Beehive with Alan Wong Scholarship from the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management (CAFNRM): Brittany Ann Rocha, Julianna Graper, and Tayler Manriki.

Three $1,000 scholarships were made possible through the generous support of donors who joined Chef Alan Wong in adopting beehives at UH Hilo’s Farm Laboratory in Panaewa in the 2011-2012 school year.

Launched last fall, Adopt-a-Beehive with Wong builds awareness of the critical plight of honey bees and promotes local solutions to sustaining the honey bee industry.

All three students successfully completed UH Hilo’s introductory beekeeping course (Entomology 262) during the fall semester, learning to take care of beehives and to extract honey, while communicating with their assigned beehive adopters.

They qualified for the scholarship by demonstrating a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher and enrolling in advanced beekeeping (Entomology 350) for the spring semester.

Dr. Lorna Tsutsumi, professor of entomology, has taught the beekeeping curriculum at UH Hilo for more than 30 years. Thanks to the support of beehive adopters, she notes that the 2011-2012 program has attracted a record enrollment of students and is linking them with adopters across the state of Hawaii and far beyond.

Brittany Ann Rocha, a general agriculture major from Kohala, said, “Everything we do in the course — from learning about the bees and how to take care of them, to extracting honey, to meeting the donors and giving demonstrations — every day is a learning experience and I’m always growing in my knowledge and appreciation for the bees and the program.”

Her goals for the future include earning her Bachelor’s degree, completing a Tissue Culture Certificate and becoming certified as a teacher so that she can move back to her hometown to teach agriculture and “bring the outdoors into the classroom” in order to give students a hands-on lesson in sustainability much like the one she’s benefited from at UH Hilo.

Julianna Graper is an art major who came to the Big Island from Salem, Ohio nearly eight years ago. Her father tended beehives behind the neighboring corn field when she was a child, motivating her to enroll in UH Hilo’s beekeeping classes.

Graper was unable to fit beekeeping into her schedule until her senior year so, although she was ready to complete her undergraduate degree in December, she decided to postpone graduation for an extra semester in order to take the advanced beekeeping class this spring.

She said she is “captivated by beekeeping” because “the sound of thousands of bees and the smell of smoke and honey remind me that people have been working at perfecting this form of agriculture for ages, and that the bees have hardly changed, though their individual lives are short.”

After she graduates in May, Graper plans to remain in Hawaii, living and working on her hanai family’s farm near Hilo where she grows vegetables, cacao, and oil palms, and raises chickens, livestock, and bees.

Tayler Manriki comes from Nuuanu, Oahu, and she is majoring in nursing at UH Hilo. She learned about beekeeping the hard way — by setting up a hive with her roommate and seeing it attacked by beetles and ants.

Now that she has formally studied beekeeping, she said “Bees are the most fascinating and intelligent creatures that have a tremendous impact on our life as pollinators, and essentially food providers … being able to actually get in a bee suit and work hands on with the bees is really what makes this class unique.”

Her goals for the future are to earn a B.A. in herbal sciences and eventually a master’s in natural medicine, while continuing to keep bees and apply their holistic and medicinal byproducts on her future patients.

Wong presented the students with their scholarships before an audience of beehive adopters at a March 10 “Bee-coming Sustainable” event at the UH Hilo Farm Laboratory in Panaewa.

He spoke about the genesis of the program — a “lightbulb” moment at Ken’s House of Pancakes when he suddenly wondered why pancakes weren’t served with honey — and thanked the adopters for helping to make it a reality.

Wong noted that the idea of adopting a beehive is not unique, but “I don’t think any other program ties in to an educational institution or provides student scholarships like this one with UH Hilo.”

He continued, “I have another dream. The plight of bees is global, so why not make this a global model, so that we can build worldwide awareness of the critical role that honeybees play in sustaining our food supply? Together with UH Hilo we can do it.”

In its inaugural year, Adopt-a-Beehive with Alan Wong raised funds for student support, instructional costs, and equipment/supplies to expand UH Hilo’s beekeeping curriculum.

The program provided a virtual beekeeping experience as nearly 100 adopters were paired with beekeeping students and received periodic reports and photos of their assigned bee colonies.

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