HONOLULU (KHON2) — Fifty years ago, the passage of Title IX changed the understanding of equality in education and broke down gender-based barriers for female and male students at every grade level.

Henry J. Kaiser High School graduate Tommi Hintnaus makes a run for a personal best at the NCAA nationals track meet, on the same field her father Tom earned a spot on the United States Olympic team 42 years earlier.

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Back then, it was unthinkable that a female could compete in the sport on a collegiate level. But these student-athletes knew all they needed was a little boost.

“Just being able to come and get scholarships to compete has been life changing,” said Hintnaus, a Kansas State All-American.

But that was not the case seven decades ago for Maui High School Valedictorian Patsy Takemoto Mink, who was denied entry into a dozen medical schools despite top grades and scores. So instead, she went to law school, and years later became the first woman of color in the U.S. Congress.

She authored Title IX, which changed the path of education in America forever. The law assured that no student at any grade level would face gender-based discrimination in academic or athletic programs.

“It didn’t happen right away. The one thing I remember is that the men got their laundry done after practice. And the women — nah that’s not happening.”

Dave Shoji, Retired University of Hawaii volleyball coach.

“When I first started playing basketball, the first trip, they stopped the bus so the boys could get off and have their pre-game meal,” said Debbie Snell, executive director of athletics at Hawaii Pacific University. “The girls stayed on the bus because there was no budget for the meals for the girls.”

Slowly, schools adjusted their budgets and curriculum, just in time for a Kaimuki High School graduate to make the first UH women’s volleyball team.

“I’m the first collegiate beneficiary of Title IX so I’m always grateful to Patsy Mink,” Marilyn Moniz-Kahoohanohano, former UH women’s athletic administrator.

Moniz-Kahoohanohano earned awards and accolades as a rainbow wahine, went on to law school and returned to the university as the senior women’s administrator where she added five sports to the women’s program — furthering the gift of opportunity she was given five decades earlier.

“We’re celebrating 50 years of Title IX, so it’s an awesome time. Especially for people that were there in the 70’s and seen the struggle, been a part of it and developing sports to be the pride of Hawaii,” said Moniz-Kahoohanohano.

But the civil rights law goes far beyond athletics.

At HPU students hope to dispel two major misconceptions about Title IX: one, it applies only to sports programs, and two, it benefits only women.

“Title IX has benefit men like me in nursing who looked at nursing 50 years ago as a primarily women’s dominated field,” said HPU nursing student, Bennet Lee Bernard. “I work in intensive care unit already and I feel it’s a more equal balance between men and women.  For men I think that exposure — that now all these men are going into nursing — it’s seeing the value that they can contribute into becoming a nurse.”

“I double major in marine biology and environmental studies, not normally a typical field for women. I get to go out into the field and do research,” said Angelianne Recinto, a HPU marine biology student.

Female students now make up 67% of the undergradudate enrollees, with a third majoring in science, technology, engineering or math.

“A male told me a marine biology major would not do me any good as a woman but here I am at HPU proving him wrong,” said Recinto.

When Patsy Mink was denied entry into medical school, only 5% of medical students were women, today 51%.

So what does TitleIX mean for today’s students? Administrators said equity equals empowerment and provides an atmosphere of safety so that students can deal with real life modern day campus problems.

“Title IX helped to really opened how we talk about sexual assault, sexual harassment on university campuses,” said Marites McKee HPU Dean of Students. “So I think Title IX has really opened the doors for a lot of transparency that we can have conversations around this very delicate subject of campus violence on college campuses.” Marites McKeeHPU Dean of Students.

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Although the benefits of the law can be seen in numbers and percentages, perhaps the most far-reaching effect has been in how Title IX changed the way we think about education and how we can give all students, not special treatment, just an equal playing field.