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KCC students shine in entrepreneur contest

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    Meghann Matsuda, left, and Meagan Luoma, Kauai Community College students, are off to California this weekend as national finalists in an entrepreneurial idea contest involving sustainable projects.

LIHUE — Kauai Community College students did well in the nationwide “Entrepreneurship Challenge: Solutions for Sustainable Impact” program.

The goal of the competition is for students to work on solutions to local challenges that relate to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, specifically, quality education.

The students from KCC, Meghann Matsuda and Meagan Luoma, Joseph Maza and Isaac Hosking, Pohaku Kauhane, Beorn Chantara and Anuhea Higa, all placed in the top 20. Matsuda and Luoma were on the team that advanced to the next round for the student entrepreneurship challenge to be held next week in Newport Beach, Calif., after their top-five finish.

“I am extremely proud,” said Dirk Soma, an assistant professor and business coordinator at KCC. “They did a great job in pulling together everything in a short time, and it was an excellent proposal.”

The students were assigned to address a regional problem in regards to the quality of education and literacy, and were given three weeks to come up with an adequate solution.

Initially, Matsuda and Luoma came up with an idea for tourists to donate school bags or supplies at every hotel, but the idea was taken.

That is when Soma talked to Matsuda and Luoma about the shortage of affordable housing on Kauai. The two students came up with an idea to incorporate the tourist industry and housing. They learned schools have a significant annual turnover rate in their teachers and began comparing educator wages and the type of people teaching.

Matsuda and Luoma came up with a concept to reduce the turnover rate of teachers by subsidizing or providing free housing utilizing the tourism industry to provide the housing, including hotels and vacation rentals.

”We decided high-quality educators would rather live somewhere else,” Matsuda said. “Hawaii educators take a $15,000 to $30,000 a yearly payout, and educators in other places get paid $57,000 with housing included, and we brainstormed how to fix this issue, and keeping in mind we still wanted to connect the tourism industry.”

The problem wasn’t over for Matsuda and Luoma.

“We had to figure out how in the world we would get these hotels or vacation rentals to allow someone to take a room or share a three-bedroom condo for the entire school year” Matsuda said in a text message. “Heidi told us to attract top high educators, we would have to match the type of clientele, so we went brainstorming and setting the standards for people who are going to apply. By giving them housing, we had to get some high standards that weren’t over the top but also inspirational.”

This idea of sustainable housing for educators that landed in the top five could also be applied in real life.

“This provides an incentive for our emerging teachers to get it right off the ground floor of this,” Soma said. “The problem isn’t unique to Kauai, and there is a recruiting problem across the state.”


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