COURTESY OF LE JARDIN ACADEMY
Seniors Anthony Burris, left, and Will Housel take a break to chat while on the Le Jardin Academy campus.
High school gamble pays off
The academy welcomes its first seniors as it makes academic and athletic inroads
This year Le Jardin Academy, a private, nonsectarian school situated amid the spectacular vistas of the Koolau Mountains, graduates its first senior class in what is the culmination of a massive journey for the Kailua-based prep school.
Le Jardin Academy
Christa Conry, Ryan Kam and Alex Tomchak
917 Kalanianaole Highway, Kailua 96734
Adrian G. Allan
Blue and white
"I remember at the start that we only had four full-time teachers on staff and we kind of all knew each other on campus," said Headmaster Adrian Allan before pausing to ask, "I mean, can you actually believe that?"
Certainly, Madame Henriette Neal, founder of Le Jardin d'Enfants Preschool, could not have imagined that the preschool she started at St. John's Lutheran Church in 1941 would have developed into a high school that is fast gaining respect around the island.
Le Jardin's high school was founded in 2002. Though it received some press, the private academy with only 50 students -- all of them freshmen -- did not make an immediate splash on the state's scholastic scene.
It was not until the 2004-05 school year, when the first wave of Le Jardin's high school students entered their junior years, that people in the state's education scene started to take notice. That year, with an enrollment of around 150, the school's newspaper received several Windward district awards at that year's Hawaii State High School Journalism Awards, two of its students placed on a regional level at a national essay contest, two others received Model U.N. awards, and its sports teams started turning in credible showings.
Among the school's proudest achievements was the notoriety it received from its entry into the HECO Electron Marathon, which garnered much public attention. Allan said, using an analogy, "Assembling a jigsaw puzzle is very similar to constructing a new school."
These steps may seem small, but to a school just putting it together, they are not.
Several of the puzzle pieces one normally associates with a high school are falling into place now. In 2003, Le Jardin began offering driver's education. In 2004, the school began teaching its first AP class. This year, varsity sports teams and pep rallies are the proposed new fare on the menu.
The most important thing happening at Le Jardin this year, though, is the senior class' graduation. Of this class, Allan remarked, "I will always be grateful to these students and their parents for taking the risk -- and it was a very, very big risk -- and joining our brand new high school."
The school has been transformed from a rather lifeless building that looked little more than a growth on the side of its well-known middle and lower schools to a cozy, yet bustling and serious high school in the space of four years.
In light of the size and breadth of this transformation, Allan and those parents and students can be forgiven for asking themselves, "Can you actually believe it?"
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Filmmaker has mixed feelings over his work
A film co-written and directed by Le Jardin senior Todd Fink has been accepted into the Student Film section of the Hawaii International Film Festival, to be shown at various theaters in Honolulu on Oct. 29 and 30.
The production, "Final Draft," is a short film which Fink describes as a tragic comedy. Fink co-wrote and directed the film with a close friend from his previous school in Colorado, Tristan Davis.
The story is about a writer who, Fink says, "loses the ability to discern between what's real and what's not real, and by the end of the movie, everything sort of clashes together. It's very chaotic."
COURTESY OF LE JARDIN ACADEMY
Le Jardin senior Todd Fink's short film, "Final Draft," will be screened as part of the Hawaii International Film Festival.
Aside from Davis, all of the actors and crew on the film were Le Jardin Academy seniors. Among the cast and crew who are credited are Jeff Butler, Alex Juselis, Corelle Nakamura and Richard Otte.
When asked whether he plans to show his short film at Le Jardin Academy, Fink replied: "I'm not sure because I don't like the film -- when I look at it objectively, I think it's horrible.
"The story isn't very good because I spent so much time editing it that I lost the essence of the original idea. It lost a sense of unification. But at the same time, it's my film. I created it. So in that sense, I like it."
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Seniors were asked: What does it mean to you to be a member of the first graduating class of Le Jardin Academy?
"It means starting new traditions."
"It's fun because the teachers favor us since we all started together."
"It's cool because we are a part of history."
"It means that we are setting the stage for the future."
"I feel honored because Le Jardin has prepared me for college."
"I can come back at any time and really appreciate how much the school has progressed."
"We get to represent the school."
"We got to build the reputation that Le Jardin is going to have."