If you have ever wondered what might happen if you mix together bright young minds, committed teachers and parents, and energetic community volunteers, then look no further than Molokai. Over the last few years, a transformation has been taking place on the island as teams of students have been winning awards and turning heads with their robotics, science and math accomplishments. One of the catalysts for forging partnerships, bringing funders and volunteers together, and facilitating success is robotics “team mom,” Kimberly Mikami Svetin.
Svetin is a 13-year product of Molokai’s public schools and currently serves as school community council chair for Molokai Middle School. After leaving the island in 1987 to earn her bachelor’s degree from Pomona College, she returned in 2005 to manage her family’s business, Molokai Drugs, and raise her two young sons. She committed herself to sparking community-wide interest in developing the expertise of Molokai students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects, and she has a reputation for bringing people and projects together. Others active in the community, such as Barbara Haliniak, President of the Molokai Chamber of Commerce Foundation, pay tribute to Kimberly’s efforts. “I think we are witnessing a shift of momentum, and now there’s a mindset on the island that our students can go far, and compete not just against the best in the State and on a national level, but globally,” says Haliniak.
Our second-year robotics teams spent ten months preparing for their Maui competition and have distinguished themselves,” said Svetin. Three Molokai robotics teams–the Gleeks, the Kaunakakai Pharmers, and the Forget-Me-Nots–outperformed other Maui County teams to represent the district in the 6th Annual Hawaii First Lego League Championship on December 11th in Honolulu. Enthusiasm for robotics has spread to Molokai High School, which now has a VEX robotics team. Svetin’s latest endeavor is to bring graduate students and instructors from the University of Hawaii-Manoa to mentor 300 students for Molokai Math Day on February 26th.