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Graduates Ready to ‘Rise Above’


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Photo by Colleen Uechi.

Seated just past the scoreboard that ticked down the closing seconds at hundreds of home games, Molokai High School’s graduating class counted down their final moments as seniors at last Saturday’s graduation ceremony.

“Isn’t it crazy how fast time has flown by?” said Kristin Tancayo in her valedictory speech. “We entered those gym doors almost four years ago for our welcome assembly as freshmen, and here we are now, just about an hour away from walking out those same doors with our high school diplomas.”

With a crowd of supporters packed into The Barn proudly looking on, MHS administrators awarded diplomas to 75 students. This year’s class included four valedictorians with the highest grade point average (GPA): Tancayo, Sarah Jenkins, Amber Afelin and Edel Mae Alvarez. Luke Kikukawa was class salutatorian with the second highest GPA. All finished summa cum laude, with a GPA of 4.0 or higher.

The class selected the motto of “Rise Above All.” Commencement speaker Bernell Bishaw, Molokai resident and grandfather of a graduating senior, gave examples of challenges he overcame in life, from middle school rejection to unsavory basketball coaches to the responsibilities of raising a family. Student speakers encouraged their classmates to face life after high school with courage.

“No matter where we go or what we do, there are challenges ahead of you,” said class president Kaylie Tanaka. “What I ask from each and every one of you, including myself, is that we meet those challenges and obstacles straight on with our head held high and our hearts wide open.”

The seniors drove the point home with their class song “Conqueror,” by artist Estelle, saying they’d “rather stand tall than live on my knees, ‘cause I am a conqueror, and I won’t accept defeat.”

In their speeches, students added that they will carry with them the lessons of hard work and aloha that Molokai has taught them. Many have said they plan to continue their education on other islands or the mainland but ultimately want to return home to contribute to the community.

“I’m going to ATI [Advanced Training Institute] in Las Vegas,” said senior Trevor Takata after the ceremony. “After that I plan on coming home and starting my own business in HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning].”

Earlier in the week, MHS also honored the seniors graduating from its Hawaiian Language Immersion Program. Aka`ula School and Ho`omana Hou High School celebrated their senior classes over the weekend as well.

Shortly after leaving The Barn, the new graduates faced their first post-high school challenge. Smothered under heaps of sweet-smelling lei and inflatable tubes, they peeked out from under the scrum, pushed down the lei and smilingly rose above.


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