UH Hilo poli-sci student Amaya Hirata selected to represent Hawaiʻi at the 2024 College Student Congress

Amaya Hirata being chosen as Hawaiʻi’s representative is a huge milestone as a student from UH Hilo, Leoshina Kariha, was selected last year as well.

Amaya Hirata pictured sitting in a tree.
Amaya Hirata (Courtesy photo)

By Nāpua Iolana Bicoy.

A political science major at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is the second student in a row to be selected to represent Hawaiʻi at the annual College Student Congress.

Amaya Hirata, who serves as the president of UH Hilo’s Political Science Club, will travel to the continent to participate in the 2024 College Student Congress, which will be held in two parts this year May 13-23. The first portion of the program will be hosted at University of Kentucky in Kentucky, the second portion will be held in Washington, D.C., at American University. Only one student from each state, plus D.C., is selected to take part in the congress.

Amaya Hirata pictured with a big smile and hugging a cow.
Amaya Hirata and friend. (Courtesy photo)

As explained on the College Student Congress website, the program takes place in the summer over two weeks, designed for undergraduates to cultivate essential personal character skills vital for future leaders in the realms of public policy, politics, diplomacy, and contemporary leadership. The summer program selects 51 rising college seniors, representing each state and the District of Columbia, to learn about the dynamics of the policy process through an experiential and immersive curriculum. Students engage with lawmakers, academics, government relations experts, policy advisors and other leaders to explore the challenges of formulating comprehensive public policy.

There is no cost to apply for or attend the College Student Congress. The sponsor of the program, the Henry Clay Center, based in Lexington, Kentucky, covers all program-related expenses including meals, accommodations, program fees, and airfare.

Hirata is currently a junior double majoring in political science and administration of justice. She plans to graduate in May 2025. She was born in Hilo and has lived in Mountain View her entire life. She says that it means a lot to her that she was selected. Someone saw the things in her that she doesn’t see in herself.

“It was a great reminder that I am someone who is strong and capable,” says Hirata. “It also means a lot because it is something that can make my family proud. Everything I do, I would like my family to be proud of and it just feels so great to be a part of something that I know will make them proud.”

Hirata being chosen as Hawaiʻi’s representative is a huge milestone as a student from UH Hilo was selected last year as well. Associate Professor of Political Science Su-Mi Lee, a scholar in international conflict management specializing in mediation and negotiation, encouraged Hirata to apply for the program.

“I didn’t think they would pick another student from the same university, but they did,” says Lee.

Leoshina Kariha pictured.
Leoshina Kariha
Su-Mi Lee pictured
Su-Mi Lee

Leoshina Kariha, from Papua New Guinea and also a poli-sci major, was last year’s Hawaiʻi representative to the congress. She and Hirata are friends and Hirata was inspired to research about the valuable opportunities and experiences the program offers to undergraduate students.

What Hirata hopes to accomplish at the congress is learning about the necessary skills for public policy making. Her focus is to learn how to communicate and work with others despite political differences and make connections with people across the nation.

As she continues her academic career, Hirata also wants to build the Political Science Club. The club is involved in the weeklong Peace Corps events Feb. 26 through March 1. She is also working on a testimony workshop for students scheduled for March 8.

After college, Hirata says she plans to go to law school and is studying for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). She hopes to specialize in either family law or environmental law.

Related story

UH Hilo poli-sci student Leoshina Kariha selected to represent Hawai‘i at the 2023 College Student Congress

Nāpua Iolana Bicoy is majoring in Hawaiian studies at UH Hilo.

Share this story