‘We made the best of it and persevered’
WAIMEA — As the bells of nearby church rang and a golden sun began to set, 152 graduates of Waimea High School’s Class of 2011 embarked on their commencement.
A crowd of about 1,000 parents, brothers and sisters, aunties and uncles, friends and faculty proudly applauded. Some waved signs and some wiped back tears.
“No matter where their life journey takes them, we’re pleased to have been part of their ohana for the past four years,” Principal Nely Caberto said. “We are proud of their accomplishments and expect great things from them.”
As guest speaker, students chose Waimea High alumnus of the Class of 1999 Norman Kali, who went on to do camera work for Channel 2 News on O‘ahu and eventually transitioned to the big screen. He was also a production assistant for the television show “Lost.”
“The guest speaker is always an alumnus who has gone out and done something that the students can aim for and dream for,” Caberto said.
“I’m 29 years old, have no college degree, am currently unemployed and I’m here to talk to you about success,” Kali said to students. “And by the way, it’ll be in pidgin.”
Kali said his greatest success is “I wake up every day and say I love my life.” He had students repeat the mantra.
Class President Melanie Albano spoke of furlough Fridays on campus because of state Department of Education budget cuts and how shearwaters shut down football games during her junior year. “But being the menehune we are, we made the best of it and persevered,” she said.
Valedictorian Benigno Baclig closed the address by thanking the people who encouraged their dreams and helped them through adversity.
“I would like to thank my four deceased dogs for teaching me the importance of life and responsibility,” he said. “Most importantly I want to thank my parents for they are the ones who woke me up when my alarm clock failed to.”
The last four years have been so memorable, Baclig said. “Remember the unnecessary slamming of locker doors after each period, or sitting up late at night trying to finish the research paper for senior project, or maybe the day when the water main broke lose and school was canceled” The students erupted with cheers. “Man, that felt like it was yesterday.”
Yesterday, Waimea High closed early when a break in a water main caused campus to shut down. Students missed a traditional assembly during which seniors and their underclassmen sit in sections according to their grade level. The seniors then move to the main floor and call the other classes to change position.
Of the 158 graduates, 43 graduated cum laude, meaning they held a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
Corbin Reynolds, a would-be graduate of the class of 2011 who died in automobile accident last January, was also fondly remembered. Caberto gave his diploma to his parents, who sat in front row throughout the ceremony.
After graduation, the high school whisked seniors away by bus to a Project Grad, drug-free event put on by parents at a secret location.