JAYNA OMAYE / NA HOKU O MOANALUA
Students from Kokutaiji High School in Hiroshima, Japan, perform a traditional dance for Moanalua students during the school's annual exchange program.
Students raise thousands for charity
During Moanalua's annual Lokahi charity drive, shelling out loose pocket change for the manila-colored homeroom envelope used to be the donation standard among less-than-concerned students. After this year's record-breaking drive, during which Moanalua students raised $6,251.98 for needy families across Hawaii, quarters and dimes seem like dots on a map as cash, checks and rolled coins flowed in.
Moanalua High School
Na Hoku O Moanalua
2825 Ala Ilima Street
Honolulu, HI 96818
"One hundred percent of Moanalua's Lokahi donations go to underprivileged teens, some of whom might even attend (our school)," student activities coordinator Sherwin Pang said of the raised funds. Up until the 2005-2006 school year, Moanalua's annual charity drive benefited the Aloha United Way. During the school's association with the charity, the school repeatedly emerged as the top high school in terms of money donated.
"There isn't all that much that surprises me about our faculty and students," Pang added. "Whenever there is a need for manpower, money or donations, everyone always comes through."
After the donations are counted and cashed out, Pang goes to Pearlridge Center every December to purchase mall gift cards for underprivileged teenagers, whom Pang calls the "often the most forgotten age group." Most donations received statewide are for families and young children, leaving teenagers with little to receive during the holidays.
Moanalua's donations this year more than doubled last year's overall total of $2,820.87.
Students and faculty alike have found new motivations to donate, driving the urge to raise money for Lokahi's cause. The charity drive, aside from helping the less fortunate across Hawaii, is also a spirit competition at Moanalua that goes toward the coveted Class of the Year title. The respective classes battle it out by trying to raise the most money; classes win by having the highest average per student. A Lokahi win has the potential to propel a class to the top of the rankings, or allow them a hairline win to just slide by in the standings.
"I donated $60 this year because I really wanted the seniors to win," senior Melanee Wong said. "I really believe that this is our year to win it all."
Members of the senior class made their way to Waikiki to raise money for their class donation. Their efforts paid off well as they raised more than $300 and ultimately won the drive with a grand total of $2,030.58.
The junior class, only $60 behind, worked out their own tactics. Several homeroom classes asked their homeroom teachers to match every $50 the classes brought in. Junior Shane Tajima felt a win was in the juniors' realm.
"We just collected money, and for every $50, we were matched by (English teacher Shelly) Koyanagi," Tajima said. "I used my own money to donate each week, and my parents also gave me a little bit to contribute."
Sophomores followed in the example of the senior class, bringing their fundraising show to 99 Ranch.
"I donated my pocket change every week, not because I'm stingy, but because that's all I usually carry to school," sophomore Ryan Uyehara said.
A surprising show, though, was the freshmen's successful attempt at collecting funds.
"In the past, the freshman total of $861 would have been good enough to win," Pang said, adding that their last-day contribution of nearly $450 was remarkable, as it exceeded their total of the three weeks before.
Though the competition between the classes was a serious matter, all students donated out of their concern for the less fortunate.
"Even though it's a couple of cents, I know that it adds up so I'm just glad to help in any way that I can," Uyehara said.
Tajima felt the same way, adding that he donated "to help people out (because) I know people have it worse."
Whether it was to win pride and glory, or to make a Hawaii teenager's holidays a bit better, Moanalua's successes in both donations and character are a heartfelt accomplishment.
Many Moanalua students also dedicate their time stacking gifts at the Lokahi warehouse in Kalihi during the early weeks of December.
"I've donated ever since freshman year, and I help out at the warehouse," Wong said.
"I'll be standing at that gift certificate machine at Pearlridge for a long time this year," said Pang .
Cultural exchange enriches classes
The Japanese greeting "Irasshaimase" ("Welcome") rang through the corridors of Moanalua as exchange students from Kokutaiji High School in Hiroshima, Japan, visited the school in early October. Traveling more than 2,000 miles to visit Hawaii, the exchange students toured the Moanalua campus, interacted with the students, and experienced the different cultural aspects of living in the Islands.
Moanalua High School established a sisterhood relationship with Kokutaiji High School in 2002. Since then, juniors from Kokutaiji have traveled to Moanalua for their annual exchange program. Upon the arrival of the Kokutaiji students, endless amounts of time and effort were dedicated to making the global exchange a smooth success. The Japanese language teachers worked together with Heather Paulino, Moanalua's world language coordinator, as well as the school's administration to plan the festivities. Moanalua students taking Japanese 4 and 5 had to practice their scripts in advance to guide the students around campus.
Upon arriving at the Moanalua campus, Kokutaiji students were escorted to the gym by Ken Fukada's Japanese language students for a formal presentation of gifts and introductions. Kokutaiji's principal, as well as Principal Darrel Galera, presented speeches and exchanged gifts with one another. Both groups shared their special presentations with music through the singing of the school alma mater and a special song of Japan.
Following the presentations, the Kokutaiji students met with their student hosts from the different Japanese classes and were taken on a campus tour that included stops at the administration building, the Student Center, the library and the new Smart Lab.
"We didn't get to talk a lot to (the Kokutaiji students) one on one, but it was fun guiding them around campus," junior Jennifer Morinaka said.
Besides touring the campus, the Kokutaiji students also participated in cultural activities led by Moanalua students. Presentations and activities included step dancing, hula, lei making and Hawaiian language.
During lunch, the Kokutaiji students presented the Moanalua students with omiyage, small gifts such as chopsticks, toys and fans. Many socialized and discussed their different experiences throughout the day and shared their thoughts about Moanalua students and their campus, even exchanging e-mail addresses with one another.
The Kokutaiji students proceeded down to the athletic field to share their traditional Japanese cultural dance. The Moanalua High School cheerleaders performed, receiving huge applause from the amazed Japanese students.
Spread across the field with their bright orange happi coats and their Japanese instruments, the Kokutaiji students danced to an upbeat song. Following their performance, the Moanalua students flooded onto the field, joining in on the festivities and dancing dressed in happi coats presented to them by the visiting Japanese students.
"The dance was hard to do, but at the same time I had fun, and I got a happi coat," senior Marissa Ganeku said.
With a busy day coming to an end, Moanalua and Kokutaiji students alike could be heard "sayonara-(ing)" each other. The fun didn't end there for the Kokutaiji students, as many of them took to the beach and shopping grounds of Ala Moana.
"Although it took a lot of planning and coordination, just seeing the fun the students had interacting with each other made it all worthwhile," Fukada said.
MAN ON THE STREET
"Which reality TV or game show do you think you could win, and why?"
"'America's Next Top Model,' because I'm cute."
"'Fear Factor,' because I want to do daring stunts."
"'Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?' because it tests how well we've retained the information we've learned from when we are younger, and I have a good memory."
"'Flavor of Love,' because I got game and I want one of those clocks he gives out."
"'Making the Band,' because I'm a dancer and I love to sing."