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Jess Waiaʻu and Kealakūlia counselors statewide have guided seniors like Toni Kalehua Soller along the path to post-high education as part of KS’ four-year Kamehameha Scholars program. Soller and some of her fellow scholars share their manaʻo about the program below.

‘To stand up for my culture is my duty…’ Kamehameha Scholars graduates share their manaʻo

May. 12, 2020


“If there is anything that I’ve learned through my experiences at school and in Kamehameha Scholars, it is that being Native Hawaiian is special, to see the world with my kūpuna’s eyes is unique, and to stand up for my culture is my duty.”
 

Kaʻala Deitch, Kamehameha Scholar – East Hawaiʻi


More than 110 haumāna statewide will graduate from high school prepared for their post-high endeavors thanks to Kamehameha Schools’ nationally acclaimed Kamehameha Scholars program.

The college and career counseling program provides high schoolers with post-secondary planning support, year-round workshops and interactive lessons grounded in the Hawaiian culture. Approximately 710 public and private high school students were enrolled in the program during the 2019-2020 school year.

Kamehameha Scholars seniors from East Hawaiʻi were the first to celebrate their academic achievement with a Zoom graduation, which allowed friends and family to cheer them on.

“Our graduation was planned by scholars, for scholars,” said Kealakūlia Counselor Jess Waiaʻu, who along with co-counselor Kūlani Calina provided guidance to the students since their freshman year. “This wasn’t the celebration that seniors were hoping for, but we were able to use innovation and creativity to honor their accomplishments.

“I am so proud of our scholars and am truly excited to see what the future holds for them. They are uniquely positioned to be the leaders of tomorrow as they have had to thrive in this harsh environment.”

The 2020 graduates shared their heartfelt manaʻo about the program as part of their final assignment. Here is what some of them had to say:


“I feel that it is my kuleana to act, because if there is anything that I’ve learned through my experiences at school and in Kamehameha Scholars, it is that being Native Hawaiian is special, to see the world with my kūpuna’s eyes is unique, and to stand up for my culture is my duty.”


“Throughout these past four years with Kamehameha Scholars I was given the opportunity to learn more about myself as a Native Hawaiian and as a future alakaʻi (leader) for the next generation… Although my last year as a senior didn’t end as expected I was still able to create new memories and learn new skills.”


“Even though my time as a senior at Kamehameha Scholars has come to an end I would like to say ‘E naʻi wale nō ʻoukou i kuʻu pono, ʻaʻole pau,’ famous words that Kamehameha I said. It means to keep striving forward for what is pono.”


“This program has taught me that it’s okay to open up about your feelings and struggles to others. That it’s okay to get emotional sometimes and to ask for help when you need it, and that you should accept and treat everyone with kindness and aloha no matter who they are or where they may be from.”


“Being a Kamehameha Scholar means many things. We are children of Pauahi, warriors, leaders, powerful, a positive force, the list can go on. Kamehameha Scholars has shown me that I have had all of these qualities within me all my life.”


“The first time I joined Kamehameha Scholars was on Kauaʻi. I joined because my parents made me… But throughout the years I realized that it was helping me grow as an individual. It gave me the opportunity to expand my knowledge on what I want in life and how I can achieve it.”



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