The themes of family and food were woven throughout the graduation ceremony of the Class of 2020, capturing the unique bond that has connected the lives of these eight individuals. Valedictorian Kimberly Yip likened her classmates to dishes of different flavors that now "pair together perfectly" after years of preparation, while also imploring her class to remain resilient and to pursue their passions. Commencement speaker Kainoa Valente utilized a fine dining metaphor to commission the graduates, exhorting them to "make your attitude an altitude," living their lives with an attitude of thanksgiving and looking to God in all they strive to accomplish.
Despite the limitations posed by COVID-19, KCS honored its graduates through an event that reflected what it means to be a part of the KCS 'ohana. Festive décor surrounding the Mahina parking lot added to the celebratory feel of the evening. From their vehicles, those in attendance cheered as the graduates received their diplomas and then watched as parents covered their son or daughter with lei that had been prepared by family, friends, KCC/KCS staff, and students. Later in the evening, the extended KCS 'ohana could join the celebration, watching the ceremony online and congratulating the graduates through chat messages.
For this one year, perhaps pomp and circumstance gave way to a more intimate event, highlighting the importance of family and the family forged from lifelong friendships.
Watch highlights from the Class of 2020 graduation here.
With the simple but effective strategy of "helping the youth one friendship at a time," the Mālama Mentors program continues to make an impact on both big kids and little kids. This is the second year KCS has been a part of the program, which currently connects KCS high school students with children at Ali'iolani Elementary.
To participate in the program, high school volunteers completed a formal training session in the fall. Earlier this semester, KCS mentors spent one-on-one time reading, playing, and listening to their child. Through this experience, high schoolers have expressed their enjoyment and growth in developing these new relationships, often discovering the blessings, joy, and encouragement that comes from getting to know their energetic mentee.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mālama Mentors shifted its mentoring sessions to an online format on Zoom. They have developed a quarantine mentoring plan, providing resources and guidance for high school mentors. Amid the quarantine, two KCS students share their reflections on continuing to build their mentoring relationships from a distance.
"Whenever we call, I ask [my mentee] about his week, how he feels about quarantine, and I offer to call him whenever he needs it... As a mentor, I have been able to give back to people in need, similarly to the mentors in my life. The large distance between us does not stop our mentorship, but instead, gives us new ways to connect." - Megan Hirasaki '22
"I enjoy being a mentor to my mentee... After not seeing each other for a while, it was nice to reconvene on Zoom to just catch up. Although the personal connection is hindered due to shaky internet connections, these conferences bring joy into our day as we talk about our household pets." - Kimberly Yip '20
Amid the backdrop of the coronavirus and the reality that their two-week trip would be cut short, this remarkable team of students chose to embrace every moment of their life-changing experience at the LA Dream Center. Standing as a beacon of light in the middle of some of the most impoverished neighborhoods of Los Angeles, the Dream Center provides training, leadership development, and outreach assignments for short-term mission trip teams, as they assist in the Center's mission "to connect broken people to a community of support."
Trip chaperone Mrs. Fowler witnessed the group of two freshmen and seven sophomores take their faith "to another level." She watched as students approached strangers in Skid Row, a neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles notoriously associated with its homeless population. Guided by a Dream Center outreach leader and inspired by daily devotions and testimony, students allowed themselves to be used by God to speak into the lives of the individuals they met, praying for them with boldness and compassion. When assigned to laborious tasks of cleaning or sorting pounds of groceries, the team worked hard and served eagerly, going above and beyond what was asked.
As sophomore Zachary Kao reflected, "the Dream Center... changes [people]." When distributing hotdogs and water to a homeless man on Skid Row, freshman Micah Branner was moved by the man's gratitude while also convicted of his own fear and preconceived notions. In response to their evangelism training, students practiced sharing their stories, even taking the bold step to reach out to family and friends in obedience to God's call.
The Dream Center experience not only made an indelible personal impact, but the group formed a special bond as they drew close to God together. They are challenged to continue serving in their own homes and communities, shining a much needed light in this difficult and uncertain season.
Classmates, friends, and family members are rallying around senior Kala'i Fisher, joining his campaign to provide hope for those battling cancer. In 2018, cancer hit close to the Fisher home, as Kala'i's older sister and KCS alum, Kanoe Fisher, was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML), a rare form of blood cancer. His sister's eye-opening battle with cancer prompted Kala'i to join the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's (LLS) Student of the Year series, a philanthropic leadership development program which made its debut in Hawaii last year. In 2019, thanks to the support of family, friends, and local businesses, Kala'i raised $36,000 for the cause.
As Kala'i has seen the impact of pivotal research and the financial resources provided by LLS, he continues to be passionate about helping cancer patients and spreading awareness. This year, he is a Student of the Year candidate, leading his own 27-member team, 'Ohana Strong. The team, comprised of a number of KCS high school students, also includes several former KCS students as well as team members from Oregon and Kaua'i. Kala'i has embraced his leadership role as an "awesome opportunity" to spread awareness. Moreover, his drive and commitment has inspired his peers, as they are excited to be a part of a campaign of this scale. Junior Jarin Nakada says that he joined the Student of the Year team because he was drawn to the cause and the opportunity "to get out of [his] comfort zone."
In preparation for the team's 7-week campaign that runs from now until April 18, team members have met with LLS staff throughout the year, planning, brainstorming, and strategizing ways to bring awareness to blood cancers and reaching their goal of raising $40,000 for LLS. As students approach friends, family, and businesses with their appeal, they have learned not to be afraid to ask and to ask multiple times. Senior Taylor Lei San Juan is enjoying the professionalism and encouragement of the Student of the Year experience. She reflects that she is learning to “be more confident in speaking to new people outside of [her] community.”
Team ‘Ohana Strong has already planned a Garage Sale on March 28 and a California Pizza Kitchen Fundraiser on April 8. They will also be partnering with local businesses, including Moena Café, Honey Glazed Hams of Hawaii, and The Blessed Life. The team's work and support for one another have already proved just how strong the value of ‘ohana runs here at KCS and within our local community.
Congratulations to Valor Ahn '21 and Cody Tomita '22! Their essays were finalists in the 10th annual Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation “Inspired in Hawaii” Essay, Poster, Digital Media Poster and Video Contest. Valor, Cody, and high school literature teacher, Mrs. Fong, were recognized during an awards program on Wednesday evening.
The contest encourages students to “dream big and make Hawaii a better place” by identifying a significant problem in our islands and proposing a creative solution. In his 3rd place essay, "Hawaii's Doctor Shortage," Valor discusses the implications of the shortage of physicians on the island of Hawaii and suggests a partnership between the County and local hospitals in order to attract and retain doctors. Cody's 2nd place essay, "A Liquid Solution," proposes utilizing an innovative "liquid speed bump" developed in Spain to combat the growing number of traffic fatalities occurring each year. Bravo to Valor and Cody for their well-researched work and effectively communicating their ideas!