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Molokai Celebrates the Class of 2023

By Jack Kiyonaga | Editor

Photo by Jack Kiyonaga.

On Saturday, May 20, the Molokai community gathered at the Molokai High School (MHS) gym to honor the graduating class of 2023. 

The fact that this was the first graduation held inside the gym since 2019 spoke to the unusual high school experiences of the class. 

COVID “hit us all and caused confusion, frustration,” said MHS Principal Katina Soares in her address. 

“[The class of 2023] kept going,” said Soares, explaining that “I saw them develop grit.” 

This grit, which Soares defined as a “passionate perseverance towards long-term goals,” was evident in the many recognitions awarded to the class. Thirty-eight graduates had taken one or more college courses. Five students were recognized for their achievements in biliteracy. Twenty students graduated with academic honors, six with honors in career or technical education, and one with honors in STEM. Three seniors even graduated with degrees from University of Hawaii, Maui College.  

“Here’s the truth — the class of 2023 is the most stubborn, frustrating, complicated group of people I have ever met,” said Reina Cabanting, president of the class of 2023. 

She urged her classmates to “remember your roots,” to “remember the hard work that everyone over here has done to get you where you are,” and especially not to “live life the way someone else wants you to.” 

Photo by Jack Kiyonaga.

This message of self-determination while honoring one’s background echoed across the student speakers. 

This year, there were four valedictorians and one salutatorian for the graduating class. Valedictorians were Olapa Duvauchelle, Meredith Go, Solomon Kikukawa-Teriong and Sage Yamashita. The salutatorian was Emily Duvauchelle. 

“Do you know who I am?” Olapa Duvauchelle asked the crowd.

Duvauchelle spoke of finding her identity instead of just being “another Duvauchelle like the millions of other ones on this island” or “the art girl or even the smart girl.” 

Instead of these labels, Duvauchelle asked her classmates to “be true to who you are” while remembering that “the person you become is your fault.” 

Fellow valedictorian Yamashita spoke of the relationships binding the class together. While sometimes these relationships amounted to a “a silent, forgotten thank you,” she said, “now I could not be more grateful.” 

These relationships were on full display as the graduates processed out of the gym: arm in arm, energized by their family, friends and home. 

Photo by Jack Kiyonaga.

The graduation continued onto the high school parking lot where hundreds had gathered. Beneath banners and confetti, the graduates were drenched in lei and excitement over their accomplishments. 

“The truth is high school is like a roller coaster ride” said Kikukawa-Teriong in his valedictorian address. “Embrace the unknown, take risks, and never stop learning.”


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