LIHU‘E — On May 9, local girl Stephanie Kainoa Steuri, an Island School graduate of the class of 2011, earned her doctorate of veterinary medicine degree from the University of Tennessee, and was honored with the American College of Veterinary Surgeon’s Award for Small Animal Surgery.
Before getting her doctorate, she graduated from University of Hawai‘i at Manoa in 2016 with her bachelor’s degree in biology, and said her journey to graduating has been filled with traveling, support from her ‘ohana and perseverance to overcome anything, including the recent pandemic.
“My classmates and I were in the final six weeks of our clinical training at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center when quarantines and stay-at-home orders were enacted,” said Steuri. “Within a matter of days, the hospital was somewhat closed, converting to an emergency-only facility, and students were sent home to finish the year online.”
Steuri said their traditional graduation ceremony and the week of celebratory events leading up to it were canceled.
“My classmates and I were so looking forward to welcoming our families and friends to Knoxville to celebrate this occasion. Instead, on May 9 we had a virtual ceremony where our degrees were officially conferred, and we became doctors of veterinary medicine,” said Steuri.
“For me, graduation consisted of sitting on my living room floor with my roommate (also graduating) with half of our apartment already packed up, watching the ceremony over Zoom.”
She wasn’t alone in watching that virutal graduation, either. Steuri’s family was awake at 4 a.m. Hawai‘i time to tune in and support their grad.
“(They) joined me in a toast to celebrate the day before going back to bed. I would never have imagined graduation playing out the way it did, but it is what it is, and it does not change the fact that, on that day, my classmates and I achieved a goal that we have poured ourselves into and have worked tirelessly towards over the past four years,” said Steuri.
Steuri’s parents Christoph and Charlene Steuri live in Kalaheo. Her father retired from a career in the hotel industry, and her mother, a former Miss Maui, works part time at Kaua‘i Estate Law.
Stephanie Steuri credits her family as her inspiration to achieve accolades in post-secondary education.
“They taught me love and compassion and instilled in me a strong work ethic and desire to impact the lives of people around me. Looking back, it’s clear that there was a lot of ‘monkey-see, monkey-do’ when it comes to who I am today, and that’s largely thanks to my parents who have consistently led by example and have always challenged me to be better,” said Steuri.
Her brother Ben Steuri is currently working at Paradise Animal Clinic in Kalaheo as a veterinary assistant, after graduating from the University of British Columbia, Okanagan campus, with a bachelor’s degree in biology.
While Stephanie Steuri was growing up, her family moved around a bit, and first landed on Kaua‘i in a move from Maui, when Christoph Steuri was working for Po‘ipu Beach Hotel and Charlene Steuri was pregnant with Stephanie Steuri.
Christoph Steuri was transferred to a hotel in Tennessee shortly after the family arrived on Kaua‘i. Stephanie Steuri was born in Tennessee, and shortly after another work transfer moved the family to Vancouver, British Columbia, second child Ben Steuri was born.
Next, the family moved to San Franscico, due to another hotel transfer for Christoph Steuri, before finally settling down back to Kaua‘i in 2006, during which time Christoph Steuri led a team reopening the old Po‘ipu Beach Hotel as the Koa Kea.
Just like her mom, Stephanie Steuri participated in pageants, and holds the 2014 Miss Paradise Kaua‘i title. She was crowned Miss Hawai‘i 2014. She also danced hula with Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina‘ala with her mom, and even joined Island School’s robotics team, which later became known as the KauaiBots, Team 2465.
Steuri’ s parents would bring her back to Maui to visit her grandma and family, and to Switzerland during the summers, where she spent nearly three months interning at local veterinary clinics and at the University of Zurich’s veterinary hospital.
Stephanie Steuri had her share of disappointments, and has a message for Kaua‘i’s graduating high school seniors: “It’s not fair, and it’s not how any of us wanted to end this chapter in our lives. It’s OK to be sad and upset. We worked so hard to get to where we are, and deserve to have that celebrated. But I encourage you to use those emotions to fuel your motivation and determination to tackle life’s next challenge.
“Knowing Kaua‘i, I know that there are so many people who want the best for you and want to see you succeed. Life isn’t always linear. There will be twists and turns that come out of nowhere, opportunities to grow and events that may set you back. No one but you defines your timeline, so don’t compare yourself to those around you. No matter what your future holds, I hope you approach each challenge with excitement and the desire make a difference in the lives of those around you. Kaua‘i will always be here for you.”
“Congratulations to the Class of 2020. We are all rooting for you.”
Stephanie Steuri said she loved her time in Tennessee, and it was beautiful to come full circle to the state in which she was born. Kaua‘i, though, will always he home.
“I would love to move back home someday, but it may take a while. For now, I am focused on finishing my education and training, and becoming a surgeon, but after that who knows where life will take me. I can only hope that I’ll be lucky enough to move back home to serve the community that has done so much for me and been a part of this crazy life journey of mine,” said Steuri.
Steuri said she is currently packing up her belongings and getting ready for the next move, down to Mississippi to start her career as a veterinarian at Mississippi State University as a small-animal rotating intern, in hopes of one day becoming a board certified veterinary surgeon.
Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.