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Waimea High School Class of 2023 more than 160 strong

WAIMEA — One of the Waimea High School’s 11 valedictorians could not figure out what is her favorite memory during the Waimea High School graduation ceremonies for more than 160 students on Friday night.

But it did not matter, said Kumu Hula Leina‘ala Pavao Jardin, the graduation’s guest speaker and an alumnus of the Class of 1991. Memories are foundations for stories, and a good foundation is needed before a house can be built, she said.

The kumu hula likened the more than 160 students to hula dancers of her Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leinaala, who are graceful, strong and, above all, storytellers.

“You have a voice,” Pavao Jardin said. “Start from now. Write the story. What are you going to be doing 30 years from now? Write the story that tells of your legacy, and the legacy of Waimea.”

Gathered on the school’s front lawn, the students were led by class President Kayla Prigge. They offered the audience traditional class songs, one in English and one in Hawaiian, at the first gathering in a few years that was unhindered by COVID-19 restrictions.

“They were freshmen when COVID restrictions first kicked in, meaning they lost in-person instruction, extracurricular activities and Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation season,” said Principal Mahina Anguay.

“They had to learn a new way of learning, via Zoom, alongside teachers who were also learning a new way of teaching, via Zoom. Over the past three years, the isolation brought on by quarantining and distance learning has forced us adults to reevaluate how we run school and interact, support and work with our students,” Anguay said.

The students faced the challenges and grew, like valedictorian Mar Heinrich Ruiz, who was announced as wanting to become a U. S. senator for the people. That drew a response that grew and demonstrated his confidence from his initial responses of wanting to get into politics, while receiving scholarships a few weeks before graduation.

“These seniors have been a tenacious bunch, fighting through multiple speed bumps thrown at them throughout their high school career,” Anguay said. “This is also the first cohort of our nationally recognized Freshman Academy to go through and graduate from Waimea. They are the first group to create their freshman mural in the STU courtyard and sign their pledge to graduate.”

And the students made it to Friday night, enhanced with their achievements that included the state’s Division II football title, the recent Division II runner-up honor in softball, the Division II third-place honor in boys volleyball, and the JROTC air riflery team qualifying and competing in a national competition.

They were also able to celebrate Homecoming, Spirit Weeks, Winter Ball, Military Ball, the HA days, Health Fair, Waimea Kakou, La Lei and, in the past two weeks, the Senior Ho‘ike.

“With the support of their families, teachers and other community members, this class not only made lemonade from the hand they were dealt over the last four years, they grew and they thrived,” Anguay said. “The skills they’ve learned from the setbacks that COVID threw at them have not only made them stronger, it’s made them patient, resilient, resourceful and purposeful — skills that will serve them well in the future.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 808-245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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