‘We are warriors’

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Parents, friends and family gather to celebrate the Kapaa High School Class of 2019 at the Bryan J. Baptiste Sports Complex in Kapaa Friday.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Kaleigh Ramil, from left, Raine Youn, Brandi McGurn and Kailea Martin celebrate their graduation with the Kapaa High Class of 2019 Friday at the Bryan J. Baptiste Sports Complex in Kapaa.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Members of the Kapaa High School Class of 2019 get ready to walk at their graduation ceremony at the Bryan J. Baptiste Sports Complex in Kapaa Friday.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Kyara Bunao takes a photo of Kennah Bunao and Brandi McGurn at the Class of 2019 Kapaa High School graduation at the Bryan J. Baptiste Sports Complex in Kapaa Friday.

KAPAA — Shouts of “cheeooo!” rang through the Bryan J. Baptiste Sports Complex Friday night as the Kapaa High School Class of 2019 celebrated.

Stadium bleachers were full of family and friends, armed with balloons, plastic float animals, and hundreds of lei. Parents gathered with their cameras at the edges of the aisles as the graduates filed in. Little brothers and sisters played at the edges of the complex, waiting for their graduate’s name to be called.

Kapaa High School’s Class of 2019 was alight with mixed emotions, stepping enthusiastically out of their time as high school students and into the next phase of life, sharing laughs and shedding a tear or two about the prospect of saying “goodbye” to classmates.

Graduates reminisced about the good times and the bad, poked lighthearted fun at retired Principal Daniel Hamada and current Principal Tommy Cox, and reminded each other to take the world by storm and to never stop believing in themselves.

“It’s been a long journey, and tonight we can all say, ‘we finally did it’,” said student body president Mele Tafea, listing some of the achievements of Kapaa High over the last four years.

She pointed out boys soccer winning state title and the rest of the Kapaa High School wins over the last four years, and celebrated the transition of leadership at the school — Hamada’s retirement, Cox stepping into the role of principal at Kapaa High.

“I know we had more (victories), Kapaa is why,” Mele Tafea said. “All the memories and the laughs and the tears, the struggles and the jokes and all the things we have shared are now just memories. Great memories.”

Then she sang her classmates a little bit of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” reminding them that a better world starts with personal responsibility.

“Just making it here tonight is a big accomplishment for every one of us. Class of 2019, it starts with you,” she said. “Remember to live your life to the fullest and believe in you. We are warriors!”

The Class of 2019 is stepping out into the world in just that fashion, with some students planning to go all over the U.S. and others planning on taking next steps while staying on Kauai.

Shailee Telles-Kelekoma is headed to Oregon for the summer to play softball with Level Up Kauai. She’s planning on coming back to Kauai after that, along with many of the other grads.

Ini Marshall is going to wrestle with Team Hawaii in Pocatello, Idaho over the summer, and then is headed to Southwestern Community College in Oregon.

Kennah Bunao is off to Arizona to study social work.

It was a flurry of white and green, flowers and smiles, photos and celebration, as the Class of 2019 turned their tassels. Family rushed the field. Siblings threw grads up on their shoulders and paraded them around.

As they looked back on the memories, the hashtags, and the challenges that pushed them to grow into the graduates they are today, senior class president Rusdan-Rocket Ahuna put the spotlight on the people who helped them get to graduation.

“With the support of people who love us and the foundation of education, we’re able to overcome obstacles and whatever comes next,” he said.


Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.


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