Monday, May 3, 2004

Hawaii's Schools

Kaiser students showed their school spirit during a homecoming rally last year. Building a sense of school spirit and pride in students has been a central focus of the school since it opened 33 years ago.

Decades alter
Kaiser experience

Students from the '70s recall
the early years of the campus,
which remains just as vibrant

The past dwindles away in the tunnel of time at Kaiser High School, but the memories are kept alive in the hearts and minds of those who lived through it and continue to be an integral part of the school today as parents, teachers and administrators.

Kaiser High School was built four years after the death of its founder, Henry J. Kaiser, in 1971. Thirty-three years later, Kaiser's metamorphosis is apparent, especially to some of the older alumni of the school.

The buildings, sports facilities and students have evolved and changed so much that the old and new Kaiser seem worlds apart.

Penny Shiira, a 1974 Kaiser graduate and mother of two current Kaiser students, recalls Kaiser had few sports facilities.

"We didn't have a gym," Shiira said. "We practiced at the outdoor court at Holy Trinity. There was no stadium, so we practiced in the dirt."

A few years after Shiira's graduation, Kaiser became one of the first schools to have a rubber track. It now has some of the best facilities found in Hawaii's public schools.

During its early years, the school did not offer the variety of sports it does today. In its first two years, Kaiser's athletic program consisted only of football, girls volleyball, bowling, girls and boys basketball, baseball and boys and girls track.

College counselor and former tennis coach Nanette Umeda said: "When I first started coaching, there were only two tennis courts. When we resurfaced the courts, we had to do it all manually."

The early Cougars came to be known for their athletic abilities almost immediately. Much like today, football games were major events, bringing together a large part of the Hawaii Kai community on Friday nights. In 1979 as many as 30,000 people filled the stadium to watch the Cougars fight for the state title. That fight was victorious in the Prep Bowl that year, when the Cougars defeated Kamehameha for the title. One year later, the Kaiser baseball team, led by pitcher Sid Fernandez, also won the state championship.

"There was a lot of spirit during the entire season and even more so during the playoffs and Prep Bowl," recalls Maurice Fujie, who has been at Kaiser since 1975. "Pep rallies were loud and spirited. It seemed like half of Hawaii Kai went to the games."

Creating school spirit was crucial on the new campus. The most exciting event back then was the "Kaiser Karnival." Along with rides and food, there was a divisional competition for Karnival Queen.

Alexandra Hada, a 1978 graduate and mother of a current Kaiser student, was a contestant in her sophomore year and remembers how exciting the event was, even though she came in last place.

"We got to ride around town in convertibles and wave at our friends," Hada said.

Many of today's students might be surprised to learn that the clothes they wear are much like the clothes their parents wore in the '70s. Class of 1976 alumnus Chacha Yoshino, a mother of two current Kaiser students, remembers the old fashions and notes the similarity to modern clothes.

Yoshino wished she had saved her old clothes "'cause they all came back." Girls wore anything from the 'hip-hugger' jeans and 'bell-bottoms' to tube tops showing the midriff and stylish belts.

However, clothes were not as revealing as they are today. According to 1984 graduate and English teacher Benjamin Lane: "The way (students) dressed fit the cliques they were in."

Most alumni agree that in the '70s and '80s, students were "cliquish" and the student body was not as diverse as it is today. Today's students are more open to mingling with students with different interests, but back then they usually just hung out with members of their clique or another clique that shared the same interests.

Says Tanya Ashimine, a 1987 graduate who teaches biology: "Students have always been sassy. I think the main difference is that students now have a closer relationship with their teachers than they used to."

Pam Ellis, a teacher at Kaiser since 1987, agreed.

"Students today raise questions and think more critically about issues than ever before," Ellis said. "They don't always accept the canon."

Some alumni recall that there used to be more fighting and frequent muggings on campus. Yoshino also said streaking was "in," even recalling a specific incident that she still laughs about.

"One lunch hour, two girls with ski caps ran naked from A Building down to the parking lot," Yoshino said. "Everyone was clapping.

"We had security after that."

The school security system was not as strict as it is today, and it was much easier for students to cut class, particularly since there was no attendance policy. Lane says one friend graduated after skipping class more than 200 times.

Students normally did not miss as many as 200 classes, but they did cut class once in a while to have fun with friends or to surf.

Although new buildings have been added to campus, and generations of students and staff have come and gone, the core and pride of Kaiser has remained the same. The tunnel of time has its bumps and obstacles, but the brightness at the end is inevitable.


School and community
help out blood bank

During the month when blood is needed the most, Kaiser students, teachers, administrators, alumni and Hawaii Kai residents gathered in the school library on Jan. 22 to donate their time in the annual blood drive held by Kaiser's National Honor Society and the Blood Bank of Hawaii.

With the blood bank having to service all of Hawaii's hospitals, it's vital that it collects 200 pints daily to meet the needs of the community.

"In Hawaii we have a very mixed pool of donors, the biggest group being the World War II veterans," said blood bank field representative Dawn Kawada.

"But because they're getting older and many are on new medications, we need to repopulate our group."

Student Gaser Khamis donated blood in Kaiser's library during a blood drive held at the school in January.

In efforts to recruit a new generation, the blood bank visits about 45 high schools statewide between October and May.

Kaiser had 84 donors this year. Students began filing in during the first period of the day.

"It makes me happy to think that my blood will help people and be put to good use," senior Matt Li said.

Fellow senior Bryne Nagata agreed. Although nervous about the large needles and the aftereffects of losing a pint of blood, "the thought that my blood would be saving three lives is what matters the most," he said.

Along with first-time donors were lifetime contributors. Sean Connell, of Hawaii Kai, explained that he stopped by after receiving a call that the blood bank would be in the area.

"I've been donating since 1987," Connell said. "My mom, who was a nurse, and my dad always gave, so I started when I was about 15 or 16."

Vice Principal Anthony Gayer also got his start as a donor through his high school blood drive.

"I am a lifetime donor because of the drive put on my senior year at Punahou," Gayer said.

English teacher Daphne Fujii, now a donor for 10 years, first began giving when she was the NHS adviser and running the blood drive.

"I didn't feel I could ask others to give blood if I had not done so myself," Fujii said. "I sometimes give when the mobile van is at one of the Hawaii Kai shopping centers, and I usually see former students there who became first-time donors at Kaiser. It's really nice to see that they've continued to donate."

By the end of the day, a total of 49 pints of blood were collected. Although the NHS's goal was to meet or exceed last year's count of 71 pints, the blood drive ultimately served as a way for students and faculty of Kaiser to give back to the community.

"If we collected only one pint of blood, I'd still be satisfied," NHS adviser Rinda Fernandes said. "Considering the amount of students eligible to donate, I think we did a great job."


About ‘Hawaii’s Schools’

Each week, Hawaii's teenage reporters and photographers tell us about their high school. This week's school is Kaiser High School.

Newspaper: The Cougar Connection
Editor: Wendy Kawakami
Faculty adviser: Pam Ellis
Next week: Kailua High School

Cougar facts

Address: 511 Lunalilo Home Road, Honolulu 96825
Phone: 394-2546
Principal: Peter Chun
Colors: Blue and gold
Enrollment: 1,034


You Asked...

What do you think KHS will be
like in 20 years?

Peter Choo
"KHS will have a more experienced and mature staff from the current staff sticking around. Communication between faculty members will be more facilitated by computers and e-mail."

Abby Sakaida-Diaz
"I see KHS as a more unorganized place, with teachers giving in to students' wishes. Students will have a total loss of respect for authority."

Tiffany Aoyama
"I can still imagine it looking the same, and I don't think the kids will ever change. I hope the classes will be a little more challenging for the students, with more variety of courses."

Chris Jacinto
"I believe that the children of the next generation will lack respect, pride and discipline. With all the new laws and regulations that come out, I think future students just won't be the same."

Jae You
"I think Kaiser will be more technologically advanced, and the technology will be used to assist students in learning."

Larissa Abney
"I think the school will be overcrowded, but we'll still have dollar lunches."

Michael Doe
"There's going to be more computers, and there will be a larger population. There will be more sports for students to participate in, also."

MichelIe Ip
"I think there will be AC in the classrooms, everyone will have computers and there will be dry-erase boards instead of chalkboards."

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