Westside lu‘au revives school spirit

Humility and pride, tears and laughter abounded at the 12th annual Waimea Alumni and Friends Foundation lu‘au and general membership meeting held on the school grounds.

“Every annual lu‘au that I come to, I am amazed at the number of people that support the school and the spirit that they have,” said Bill Arakaki, principal of WHS. “There is so much of that feeling of love and pride in the school.”

The highlight of the evening was awards given to individuals who have made contributions to their schools and communities, said Alvin Kyono, president of WAFF.

• Jim and June Nakagawa, owners of Rainbow Paints and Fishing Supply in Port Allen, took home the Friends of the Foundation award in recognition of their support of WAFF’s carnivals and lu‘au.

• Violet Hee, Jennie Keuma, Dr. Mitsugi Nakashima, Richard Ueoka and Carol Yotsuda won Spirit Awards. Each recipient was introduced with a list of accomplishments and awards.

Hee taught English and Social Studies at WHS for 23 years, and then went on to serve in district positions. Hee described Waimea people as “the staunchest, most loyal, most compassionate people always ready to promote any kind of project.”

Keuma is a well-known kupuna who shares the Hawaiian culture through demonstrations of taro- and salt-making, poi-pounding, storytelling and hula.

An alumnus of WHS, Nakashima, who has served the education community for over 50 years, said he owed his education to the WHS Alumni Association, which awarded him a $100 scholarship upon his high school graduation.

“It paid for one year’s tuition to (the University of Hawai‘i) and provided incentive for my family to support me through college.” He advised the “opio” not to think of retirement as an end of work, but as a beginning.

WAFF board member Myles Moriguchi introduced Ueoka as “the fastest man on Kaua‘i whose 9.8-second KIF record in the 100-yard dash has never been broken.” Ueoka has been involved in Pop Warner football and golf programs on Kaua‘i.

In accepting his award, Ueoka paid tribute to his former coach. “I hope I influenced lives as I was by my Waimea High School coach, Mr. Melvin ‘Baggy’ Tsuchiya.”

Ueoka said Tsuchiya instilled dedication, organization, discipline, hard work, honesty, sportsmanship and motivation. “All traits you need to be a good coach, athlete and person,” he said.

Ueoka confessed to the audience that his blood was bleeding Kaua‘i High School red. His son Kelly played football and track for KHS and his daughter is on the KHS golf team.

“When Miki graduates, I promise my blood will turn back (to) blue,” Ueoka said.

WAFF board member Naoko Ho introduced Yotsuda as “an avid teacher and learner who has devoted the major portion of her life to promoting the love of art in various mediums.”

Yotsuda said it is the lack of art and culture that pushes her to be active in advancing art in the community.

“I try to give students and adults — anybody — who want to find themselves, to express themselves, a way to do it. That’s what drives me.”

• The final award of the evening was a surprise for the recipient, Janice Nitta.

“If not for her tireless efforts and vision for WAFF, we would not be here honoring those who have made a difference,” Ho said in her introduction of Nitta.

Nitta taught English at WHS from the late 1960s through the 1980s. She then served as the schools’ Student Activities Coordinator.

Fighting back tears, Nitta shared the story of the WAFF. She said the foundation was first organized by members of the class of 1937, but laid dormant for awhile.

When she started looking for a vehicle to support the fund- raising efforts of the school, she came across the foundation and decided to jump start it.

As vice president and secretary, Nitta reported during the membership-meeting portion of the evening that in the past year, WAFF had awarded 11 scholarships to graduating seniors, four grants to various school programs and a utility golf cart for the school.

They held the annual carnival to give the athletic department and school organizations the opportunity to raise funds and participated in the yearly corn harvest fund-raising project in partnership with Syngenta Seeds and Russell Nonaka.

Moriguchi, who is working on the WAFF newsletter, said it has a mailing list of about 5,000.

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