‘On to bigger and better things’

LIHUE — When Kauai High School graduate Noah Matsuyoshi stepped up to the podium at Vidihna Stadium Friday evening, he delighted and inspired his fellow graduates and hundreds of friends and family with humor, nostalgia and a message of positivity.

“Even though we may not have the most money or even though despite our controversial opinions on the school lunches and although some pieces of this puzzle (life) don’t fit together, we turn it around; we make it positive and we make it work,” he said.

The Kauai High School alumnus and top valedictorian of the Class of 2016 — with a cumulative grade-point average of 4.125 — was among a record 289 graduating seniors at the school’s commencement ceremony.

Matsuyoshi, who was among 15 valedictorians, reminded students and audience members of the connection to ohana.

“If ohana means family, then we are the ohana of Kauai High School,” he said.

The future Washington State University freshman, who plans to major in computer science, added how compassion and cooperation kept his class glued together over the past four years.

The valedictorians’ message to the students: perseverance.

“We all face hardships, but we nevertheless push on through and tackle our life problems together,” Matsuyoshi said.

Bill Arakaki, Kauai district superintendent, said the students ought to be proud of their accomplishments, and wished the graduates a bright future.

“They’ll be going on to bigger and better things,” Arakaki said.

Key speaker of the night Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. — 1979 Kauai High alumnus — gave students a bit of life advice.

“You can’t change the direction of the wind, but you adjust the sails to your destination,” he said. “Keep adjusting your sails. Never give up. Stay focused. Be persistent. Remember your family.”

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