WAIMEA — “Lana” just had surgery two days ago, but was not going to miss this event, said Carol Everett, the Kaua‘i Humane Society’s education officer.
The mascot for animal education had a cyst removed, and despite a scar from the operation, was her boundless self, demonstrating commands and getting an endless supply of sympathy from the crowd of Waimea High School students who jammed the Clem Gomes Gym.
“It offers career choices and pathways to a career goal to accomplish that goal,” said Michael Acoba, a Waimea High School 10th-grader who was helping to usher the students through the doors.
Themed “Footsteps to Success,” the career fair hosted more than 50 representatives from all segments of the community.
“We have 20 new vendors this year,” said Lita Saiki, an educational assistant working in the Waimea High School counselor’s office.
That left Major Victor Aguilar and his corps of Junior ROTC cadets with the task of fitting all the displays and presentations.
“We had to make the aisles a little tighter because there were more vendors,” Aguilar said. “But a lot of the vendors liked the ‘squeeze’ because it gave the impression of more people.”
Robin Jumper, manager for the Anara Spa at the Grand Hyatt Regency Kaua‘i, said the Hyatt has had representation for the five years she’s been with the organization.
“This is a well-organized event, and the students keep us well-fed,” she said. “Aunty Stella Burgess, a Waimea graduate, made sure we were part of this event, and we’ve been coming ever since.”
Each year, they’ve tried to offer something different for the students. Last year, it was massage.
For this year, Jumper said, they brought over a specialist in waxing.
“At first, it was only girls,” Jumper said. “But one boy tried it and now we’ve got more boys getting waxed than girls.”
Jumper added that when she first started attending the Waimea career day, a lot of the students were freshmen.
Today, they’re seniors and some of them have come to the resort as employees, mentioning how they were inspired by the career day presentations.
Among the Hyatt crew, Romel Bergonia, another Waimea alumni, was working with Steven Tanji in offering samples of strawberry mango cheesecake.
“This is part of his training,” said Bergonia, the chef at Yum Cha, an Asian eatery. “He’s part of the Corporate Management Training program, and once he completes this, he becomes a chef.”
Organizers of the event make it a point to bring back former Waimea High School students, and Shen Balmidiano, the payroll administrator for Big Save was one of those students.
“You have a sense of pride coming back,” Balmidiano said. “I’m proud to have graduated from this school, and proud to represent Big Save. It’s our way of giving back.”
The fire crew from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Mana were all former Waimea High School students and said the representatives were selected because they were Waimea alumni.
“More than half of the people here are graduates from Waimea High School,” Saiki said.
Ali Mubbashir, an exchange student from Pakistan, knew exactly what he wanted in his future.
“I want to be in the field of aeronautics,” Mubbashir said. “There is a lot of opportunity here where you can work and pay for your education. In Pakistan, when you’re in college, you don’t get high pay. It’s an easy system here.”
Mubbashir, a junior, said to achieve his goals, he’ll return to Pakistan for a year before setting his sights on a university in Arizona to earn a degree.
Stu Burley, who was nearby at the Strategic Theories Unlimited booth, was luring students with flight and the opportunity to build a plane.
“If they can build it and fly it, they’ll be able to soar to new heights,” Burley said. “Working with students, you never get a holiday. It’s all for the kids.”
Once each of the classes had taken their turn through the gym, it was time for the Menehune to return the favor.
Lunch was prepared and served by the students from the school’s culinary institute — one of the career pathways available for the students.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or firstname.lastname@example.org.