Good pals share big moment

y RITA DE SILVALIHU’E—Ronnie Gudoy and Reginald Ragasa are

pals.

They work together. They attended high school together. Three years

ago, they even dropped out together.

This week, they’re both walking on

Cloud 9.

The two Garden Island mailroom employees were among 17 (of 65)

graduates accepting congratulations and the equivalent of a high school diploma

Sunday at the Kaua’i War Memorial Convention Hall as part of the Kaua’i

Community School for Adults program.

It was hard to miss the pride written

all over their faces as they strolled jubilantly across the auditorium stage,

arms held high, to get the piece of paper that could mean a new lease on

life.

It was apparent this was a big moment for both of them.

In 1997,

the high school buddies turned their backs on education and signed themselves

out of high school when they were 17, legally old enough to make the decision

on their own without their parents’ consent.

Regie said he didn’t really

like school and Ronnie would just say that he had problems there.

So they

dropped out, Regie first and Ronnie a short while later.

At first, both

agree, being out of school was “fun.” But within a year or two, they regretted

their action.

“We just stayed home,” Ragasa remembers.

It didn’t help

that parents and other family members were disappointed and unhappy that they

had left school.

“My parents told me I had to get a job and medical

coverage,” Ronnie said.

That’s when he first discovered how important a

high school diploma could be.

“You can’t work, it’s hard to get a job,” he

said.

Regie found a job at The Garden Island a year after he dropped out

and has worked here ever since. This year, he put in a good word for his friend

who also works at the paper now.

But jobs weren’t the only thing bothering

Ronnie and Regie.

“I wanted to redeem myself,” Ronnie said. “Everyone was

looking at me like, ‘This guy’s nothing because he dropped out.’ “

“They

treated us like we were a piece of crap,” Ragasa agreed.

It was Regie who

heard about the KCSA program first.

“We thought about it and talked about

it and decided it wouldn’t hurt to try,” he said.

After nearly a year of

night classes three hours a day, two days a week, they saw their dream come

true.

“We did it!” It’s a great feeling,” Ronnie said.

Praising their

teacher, Stanford Oshiro, the new graduates say they now feel more prepared for

life.

“It was great,” Regie said, “It taught me a lot about life and jobs

and made me more confident in the things I do.”

For Ronnie, his new

diploma means people will finally give him more respect.

“I was the only

one in the family who dropped out,” he said. “It made our family ‘shame.’

Both families are now very happy.

“They thought we were lying about

going to school and getting a diploma,” Ronnie laughs. “Now they

believe.”

Ronnie is the son of Art and Gening Gudoy of Eleele. Vangie and

Roger Ragasa of Kekaha are Regie’s parents.

Earning his diploma has made

Regie feel like he has been “born again” and given one more chance in

life.

“I feel like we’ve accomplished a lot and I’m now ready to start

looking for even more challenges,” he said.

Ronnie, who “feels like a new

man,” is considering taking night courses at Kaua’i Community College.

“I

said to myself, I got my diploma, anything is possible!”

Their advice to

other students thinking of dropping out?

“Don’t do it because it will hurt

you in the end,” Regie advised.

But anyone who has already left school and

is thinking of trying to earn their diploma should go for it, Ronnie

said.

“If you want it, try it. You have nothing to lose. You’re only going

to gain,” he added.

He also wanted to send a final message to today’s

kids.

“Always listen to your mommies. Maybe you think it’s not good but

they’re telling you the truth,” he said seriously.

“I wasn’t listening

before. Now I know that everything they say is what’s best for you. It’s all

for your good.”

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