KAPA‘A— Kapa‘a High graduate Kian Lai Viernes said Friday’s commencement ceremony possessed a “drive-thru, movie-theater vibe.”
Viernes, one of 250 Warriors to receive their diplomas from Principal Tommy Cox, patiently waited his turn in his parent’s car Friday afternoon as he and several hundred other seniors across the island got ready to graduate. Outside Ron Martin Athletic Field on the Kapa‘a High campus at about 4 p.m., graduates lined up outside family cars, waiting to walk the 40-foot stage and receive their diploma.
Viernes, one of the 34 valedictorians to receive a diploma, holds the distinction of having the highest GPA of the esteemed group, with a 4.235 GPA.
It was a moment Viernes said he thought might not happen.
“For a while, I thought we weren’t going to have any graduation,” Viernes said. “It is nice to know we can walk across the stage, just like the class before us. It was very exciting.”
Now Viernes said he is ready to focus on his future.
Heading to the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, Viernes hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and later enter into an accelerated master’s program. He said he’s also looking forward to some sort of normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic prematurely shut down schools March 13.
“When this starts to clear up, I am looking forward to hanging out with friends, going to the beach, going back to work and spending time with my family,” Viernes said. “I expected we wouldn’t have ended (our senior year) so abruptly. I was expecting, on the final day, to blow air horns and shoot off confetti cannons like the seniors usually do on the last day of school.”
Allen Agbayani, who will study his first few years at Kaua‘i Community College, has mixed feelings about receiving his diploma.
“I mean, it happened so fast,” Agbayani said. “The years just went by in a flash. I am sad and happy that school is over, but it’s time to move on with life and go to college.”
Kirra Lindman, another one of the 34 valedictorians, is headed to the University of California at Berkeley, with the plans of studying architecture.
Like the rest of the graduating class, Lindman said she was just happy to have a commencement as close to a traditional one as possible.
“I don’t know what to say,” Lindman said at the moment. “I am just very thankful to end school this way, even though the end of the year was unexpected.”
Every year, Cox admits, is unique, but this year held a different twist after school halted in mid-March.
“This was such a great class, and they stayed positive, kept their heads up and did their online work,” Cox said. “They were very mature throughout the last semester of school. We are happy to give them a chance to walk across the stage. They made it through, took care of business, and that says a lot about their character.”