Two Kauai Community College students earned top honors at a recent national student entrepreneurship challenge for their proposal to recruit and retain local teachers by partnering with the Kauai lodging industry, according to a University of Hawaii news release.

Meagan Luoma and Meghann Matsuda-Blaylock, whose team name is “Team M2,” earned second place after qualifying as one of five finalists for their idea to stem teacher turnover on Kauai by providing for free or subsidized rentals of hotel rooms and condos to educators for up to two years, according to the press release.

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Availability and steep cost of housing across the islands of Hawaii is a contributing reason for high teacher turnover.

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The students called their proposal the “Alakai Initiative.” It was submitted for this year’s competition, whose focus was to address the United Nations Sustainable Development goal of quality education, and which was judged by former “Shark Tank” competitors.

“Trying to keep our local teachers at home” is a big issue, said Dirk Soma, assistant professor of business at Kauai Community College and the students’ instructor.

“We know we’ve been importing teachers. They stay for a couple of years and then leave,” he said. Part of the reason, he said, is the high cost of housing on Kauai.

“We looked at a resource that is in every community — what if we utilized some of the inventory that already exists, and work with them to provide a room that is individual or shared use?” he said of the team’s proposal.

Team M2 also received the “Member’s Choice Award,” voted on by conference attendees at the opening reception for the “Entrepreneurship Challenge: Solutions for Sustainable Impact” program at the annual conference for the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, held in October in Newport Beach, Calif.

Luoma and Matsuda-Blaylock received a $500 check for their second-place finish. Building off the enthusiasm for their presentation, they hope to schedule a meeting with the Kauai chapter of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association and also with the nonprofit, Growing Our Own Teachers on Kauai.

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