PUHI — On Friday afternoon, Kaua‘i High graduates and their parents and families lined up their decorated cars at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, patiently waiting to convoy in style before heading home to watch a virtual ceremony televised on K5 and Hawai‘i News Now.
As they waited, graduates talked about COVID-19, many saying they felt cheated for not getting a traditional graduation ceremony. All of them, however, were determined to make it a memorable day.
Alyssa Contrades was in line with her sister Victoria Contrades, excited to graduate together. Both are planning to attend Kaua‘i Community College. Alyssa plans to take up electrical engineering and music, and Victoria is in pursuit of a cullinary degree. Both said they had mixed feelings about the big day.
“It only hit me just now seeing everyone, teachers even from my freshman year. All 13 years just passed. It’s special. I feel like we made it. A lot of families been through a lot during this COVID-19, staying home all together, all cooped up,” said Alyssa Contrades.
Victoria added: “I feel a little sad because we missed the fourth quarter. We couldn’t experience the rest of our high school year. We are going to try to make it today a positive time. “
Standing nearby was Robbi-lynn Contrades, watching her two daughters get ready for graduation day.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “It’s not exactly the traditional graduation ceremony. It is what it is, so we are going to make the best out of it.”
Out of 22 valedictorians in the Kauai High Class of 2020, Alaysia Navor is the valedictorian with the highest GPA, 4.217. She said Friday she will be going to Yale to study neuroscience with an emphasis on a pre-medicine track.
“I choose Yale because I thought it was the best fit for me, and I wanted to be academically challenged, and the people who I talked to said they really like it and it seems like a welcomed community,” said Navor. “Just because we are not having the same traditional ceremony doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be any less proud of what you accomplished.”
Vice Principal Joe Hicks, one of three vice principals at the school, said he was feeling especially proud of the graduates for making it through to the end of the year during the uncertain times of the pandemic.
“(It’s amazing) to be able to achieve what they achieved,” he said Friday. “Their future is bright, and I can’t wait to see what they do in their college career and the rest of lives.”
When it was almost time to begin the convoy to Kaua‘i High School, where students picked up their diplomas, state Department of Education Kaua‘i Complex Area Superintendent Bill Arakaki and CKMS Acting Principal Jean Morris took the lead in a red, classic pickup truck.
“Look at this great line of cars, parents, happy faces,” he said before the convoy took off from CKMS toward Kaua‘i High. “This is all about Kaua‘i — the love and aloha that we have here, the families are former students, and just being here is great.”
When it was time to start their engines, one by one cars honked their horns and celebrated with whoops and cheers. Their first destination was Kaua‘i High, then after they headed home to watch the rest of the televised virtual ceremony.
Before they left, Principal Marlene Leary offered a few words of wisdom, highlighting the challenges of the past two months for seniors.
“They have had to adapt and accept extreme changes to the normal routines of school and social connections,” she said. “The loss of senior activities and sports events caused sadness and anger. Yet, when push came to shove, they rose up to the challenge to prove to all of us that they are persistent, creative and courageous.”
Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.