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Jade Chihara wraps up impressive college career

By Staff | Jul 27, 2017

Jade Chihara played for the Smith College basketball team for four years, the last two as a team captain. 

LAHAINA – Lahainaluna High School Class of 2013 graduate Jade Chihara was named to the Dean’s List among the 643 seniors to walk the line at commencement exercises at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts on May 22. With a 3.87 grade point average, Chihara earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Study of Women and Gender with a Concentration on Sustainable Foods and was recognized for her academic achievements along with the other top 25 percent of the student body on the Dean’s List.

Chihara was also honored on the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Basketball Sportsmanship Team after her senior year as captain of the Pioneers. She was similarly honored 11 years ago, as she won the Sportsmanship Award for her play in the West Maui Youth Basketball League, which paved the way to her playing career at Lahainaluna and at Smith.

She played for the Smith team four years, the last two as a team captain, and was regarded as the program’s top on-ball defender throughout her career playing for the Smith team.

But it was her academic endeavors that flourished and took center stage after her 2015 and 2016 summer internships here on Maui at Nohoana Farms in Waikapu under mentor Hokuau Pelegrino.

Chihara became increasingly passionate about the plight of traditional and sustainable farming practices of local farmers such as Pelegrino and Mahealani Wendt.

In particular, she concentrated on the mauka to makai traditions of farming taro here on the Valley Isle and took a course at nearby Hampshire College in U.S. Imperialism and Hawaii to gain a broader perspective of the sustainable foods situation here.

Chihara worked along with her Smith professors to bring Pelegrino and Wendt to Northampton to lecture on sustainable farming practices and the current status of water flows on Maui.

She studied gender, land, food movement and GIS (Geographic Information Systems), which allows users to synthesize and present spatial data and images. From the GIS, practitioners can create StoryMaps to present data in various formats.

Chihara attended a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) conference and saw how GIS was used by real estate and sugar company officials to show how they were colonizing and appropriating the land. She realized that she could use this tool to represent traditional and sustainable farming practices.

For her senior thesis, she created a StoryMap to tell the saga of how the sugar industry negatively affected taro growers since the 1800s. Her project received high reviews from Smith professors.

“My goals at this point are to try internships that allow me to use GIS creatively, making StoryMaps for organizations and agencies to teach and educate others. I’m also interested in law and activism for communities to advocate for access to farming traditional foods and healthy, sustainable agricultural practices,” she said.

At present, Chihara is working an internship with Haleakala National Park while researching other opportunities in sustainable farming here on Maui.