For Kaua‘i Complex Area Superintendent Bill Arakaki delivering the commencement address at the Waimea High School graduation was a bit of a homecoming.
“It’s an opportunity for me to say good-bye to the kids,” the former WHS principal said. He had been the principal there for nine years. Leaving last July to take the superintendent position did not allow him the chance to address his students.
“I miss the kids and all the families,” Arakaki said. “Waimea was a special place; they really took care of me.” In bidding farewell to the senior class, Arakaki spoke about the ways of a “peaceful, strong Menehune.” He told the class to appreciate life. “Smile loud and make people smile … love yourself.”
“As you leave Waimea High School, like others before you, the memories and experiences that you have in your heart, mind and soul will always be there to use and motivate you on your journey toward your career and college goals,” Arakaki said.
In turn, the students remembered Arakaki.
“He was a great Principal,” Aaron Vea said.
“He was very helpful to a lot of us,” James Sagucio said.
Mark Guirao said he remembered Arakaki dressed up as a Menehune at the football game in their freshmen year.
“He’s a very generous man,” Bingxi Sun said. She remembered when he treated the students he took to O‘ahu for a statewide student meeting to Burger King.
Guirao and Sun were among six valedictorians who shared the speaking duties at the graduation exercises.
Sun said that she and Guirao, along with Randy Umetsu, Cayla Kitabayashi, Jared Coleman-Stark and Crystal Whitehill each took a section of their class motto that they were “really passionate about” and elaborated on it.
Umetsu introduced the motto: In our hands we hold today, in our dreams we hold tomorrow, in our hearts we hold forever.
Kitabayashi talked about the importance of friends and family and how graduation night signaled that the “time to make memories as WHS students is coming to an end.” For Coleman-Stark the diplomas they would hold in their hands symbolized the first two lines of the motto.
Whitehill spoke of the people who gave advice and help over the years, like Vice Principal Patrick Pereira.
Guirao acknowledged the teachers and used David Mecham as an example of a teacher whose reason for coming to school was to help students learn.
Sun dedicated the last part of the motto to the people, whether it be parents or grandparents or guardians, who raised them. She told them that they “did a good job.”
“No matter where you end up in life, you have to ask yourself what’s your measure of happiness,” Umetsu said in closing. “Define your own happiness and go for that.”
As senior class president, Dayna Cacal had a difficult task getting her classmates together. About half of the class was on a modified schedule because WHS moved to an eight-period day. Many seniors had the required number of credits and did not need to take a full load of classes, so getting the class together was made even more difficult.
“People who really care or have a passion to get involved are the ones who are stretched (thin),” Cacal said.
Cacal was still able to reminisce when she addressed her classmates about the time they spent together as a class.
Senior counselor Greg Harding has been with the class since its freshman year and has seen an “amazing transformation.”
“In these four years, they grow more than any other time in their lives,” Harding said.
He characterized the class as being big-hearted.
“They do things that surprise you,” he said. He gave the example of them calling on an educational assistant during the homecoming assembly and singing a song to her to express their appreciation for her support.
Principal Larry Kaliloa said the class had to struggle through a number of changes this year. One change was a new principal.
“But they have really worked through it together,” he said. “I think the bonding between many of them has grown stronger throughout the year.”
Despite the struggles, Kaliloa said this graduating class of 160 students is a happy group.
“They enjoy things; they enjoy life,” he said.
Taking on the principalship at WHS was a homecoming for Kaliloa. He attended ‘Ele‘ele School until the sixth grade. He then transferred to Kamehameha School.
He returned to teach at Waimea Canyon School in 1987.
He also coached volleyball and basketball at WHS until leaving for O‘ahu in 1993.
He came to WHS as principal after being a principal at Kaiser High School on O‘ahu for three years.
Graduation night was also a homecoming for Martha Kruse, class of 1938. She sat in the special section reserved for former graduates through the decades.
“I always come for special things for the school,” Kruse said. “Like the first-time gathering of old cheerleaders and songleaders.”
Kruse said she would have been a graduate of the first class in 1937, but had to stay out one year to take care of her mother.
“It’s nice to see so many (graduates),” she said.
• Cynthia Matsuoka is a freelance writer for The Garden Island and former principal of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com