Leaving to a happier place

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Waimea High School graduate Harley Nonaka is congratulated by her mother Nicole Friday during the school’s commencement exercises Friday on campus.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Waimea High School graduate Marlin Berg and his family are among the throng of graduates and well-wishers Friday during the school’s commencement on campus.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Waimea High School graduate Justin Rapozo receives his diploma and congratulations from Principal Mahina Anguay, joined by Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami, Nellie Caberto, Ryan Girard and Kauai Community College Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Margaret Sanchez Friday at the school’s commencement on the front lawn.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Waimea High School graduate Keila Kamakele reacts as he is announced to collect his diploma Friday during the school’s commencement at the campus.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Song leaders Jaclyn Ragragola and Xavier Lasconia descend from the ranks of the Waimea High School Class of 2019 Friday to lead the Hawaiian class song during commencement exercises on the school’s front lawn Friday.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Waimea High School graduates Brandie Aguinaldo and Joseph Hedstrom come through the arched sabers offered by the Waimea High School JROTC Honor Guard Friday during the school’s commencement activities on the school lawn.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Waimea High School graduates Jayvee Agulay and Jayshier Llyan Castillo flash shaka before walking in the school’s commencement exercises Friday on campus.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Waimea High School graduate Rogerland Dela Cruz strikes a serious pose as he and fellow seniors ready for their commencement festivities at the school Friday.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Waimea High School graduates Victoria Cristobal, Angelika Esposo, Ashley Arios enjoy moments before their commencement activities on the school lawn Friday.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Monica Kawakami readies her smart phone to capture some of the pyrotechnics that lit up the skies during the introduction of graduate Wendee Miguel as a Gold Sash wearer Friday night at the Waimea High School commencement on the school’s front lawn.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Leiko Yamauchi leads a group of graduates to the processional Friday during the Waimea High School commencement held on the school’s front lawn.

WAIMEA — There was a wide range of emotions Friday when Waimea High School celebrated the graduation of more than 100 of its senior-class students at the campus front lawn.

“I’m scared, but excited at the same time,” said Victoria Cristobal, one of the Menehune celebrants. “I’ll be going to the Kauai Community College with some of my friends and study nursing before transferring to the University of Hawaii at Manoa for my degree.”

Hundreds of people swelled around the designated commencement area, marshaled by the school’s JROTC.

“Waimea High School’s Class of 2019 is a group of exceptional people,” said Principal Mahina Anguay. “Our JROTC cadets excelled this year, coming in second statewide in CyberPatriots competition. Our Junior Leadership and Academic Bowl team is the only team from Hawaii to qualify for national competition. This is the fifth time a Waimea team has qualified for the nationals. No other public school has qualified this many times.”

And, she added, Battalion Commander Samantha Bostick is the recipient of a four-year, JROTC scholarship to cover her college expenses at Colorado.

The giving was not limited to just these scholarships, as Buddy Ayudan, helping steam the graduates’ gowns for the ceremony, said they — “The Four Uncles” — provided 27 students with scholarships amounting to $91,000 derived from the Kekaha Host Benefits fund.

“And we’re not done yet,” Ayudan said. “We provided for 27 students at Waimea High School, and we still have the Ni‘ihau students coming up. Our group, made up of Dennis Eguchi, Garrett Agena, Patrick Pereira, Dan Abadilla, Katie Hardwick and myself, were able to get $3,500 for each student. This covers one year of school and is more than we were able to do last year. Eventually, we want to work to cover more of the students’ college career.”

Ashley Arios, one of the Menehune graduates, said she will be pursuing a study in nursing, joining Cristobal and Angelika Esposo at KCC.

“Coming to school and hanging out with friends was a lot of fun,” Arios said. “But I have a lot of fears, and I need to overcome this. I think studying nursing will help me with this.”

Seven Waimea High School graduates — Brandie Aguinaldo, Rochel Mae Agustinez, Bostick, Joseph Hedstrom, Azea Minia, Kimberly Ramos and Cade Tanaka — earned their University of Hawaii academic subject certificates through the successful completion of 14 college-level math credits.

“Sixty-eight seniors, or more than half of this class, are graduating with at least six college credits, saving themselves and their parents valuable time and money,” Anguay said. “These students have already completed their first English, math, humanities, and science credits, tuition-free, while still in high school.’

Of these 68 students, 10 have completed more than 20 college credits. Kiana Young accumulated 41 credits at KCC prior to graduation.

Rogerland Dela Cruz was excited about the moment, but questions about his future whirled in his mind.

“I still don’t know what I’m going to do,” Dela Cruz said. “Maybe I’ll join the Army, or go to school to study carpentry.”

Graduates Jayvee Agulay and Jayshier Castillo said high school was hard, having entered Waimea High School at the end of their junior year after arriving from the Philippines.

“But to get here and graduate is a very exciting feeling,” Castillo said. “Jayvee is going to join the military, and me? I might check out studying culinary arts, or maybe automotive technology.”

Valedictorians included Aguinaldo, Hedstrom, Wendee Miguel and Kimberly Ramos, and Cade Tanaka invited Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami to deliver the keynote message.

“We’ve looked forward to this day since our first orientation,” Bostick said. “That was four years ago, and even if high school was a happy place, we now leave to a happier place.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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