PHOTO BY WILLIAM GRIP
Leimomi Barnes, Benjamin Blake, Bryan Hill and Morrisey Pickles are Radford friends who met last year. Their combined ethnicities include Hawaiian, Filipino, Colombian, German and black.
Melting pot is a tasty mix
"Want diversity? Come to Radford. You'll hit the mother lode," said Kim Ferrer, grade 11.
Radford High School
Mary Ann Kurose
Mary Antonette Olivas
4361 Salt Lake Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96818
Robert S. Stevens
"Pappy" the Ram
You need only to walk down the main hallway of RHS to see multiracialism at work. With about 65 percent of the student body being of military dependents, we are constantly receiving new blood to our diverse bank. According to schoolmatters.com, approximately 44.4 percent of the student body identify themselves as being Asian or Pacific Islander, followed by the White/Caucasian population at about 39 percent, and those of Black/African-American descent at 12.3 percent. There are no stats for those who happen to be hapa, or of mixed descent.
"There wasn't a lot of diversity, mainly just black and white students and some Asian ones," said junior Tevon Evans of his previous high school in Arkansas. Senior Malorie Orlando shared a similar sentiment. "I went to a school in Michigan where the majority of the students were white," she said.
With some students having no previous experience with the kind of diversity that this school serves up, it is easy to see how plausible racial tension is in the melting pot that is RHS. Allegations of racial discrimination on campus in 2005 propelled the press into showing the school's racial diversity as a strain on the harmony of the student body.
However, also shedding some light on this issue was the rally afterward, where enraged students of all races protested the media's negative image of the school. Students not only claimed that the conflict was never a racial issue, but that any problems with racism on campus were completely unfounded.
"Radford's diversity is amazing," said Evans. "There are Filipino, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian and many more different students too. I like it because this way you get to know more people who have different backgrounds and heritages than you."
Orlando agrees. "Coming to Radford was refreshing, as I got to see cultures other than my own," she said.
While he admits that RHS is hardly the only school in America that is so ethnically and culturally mixed, senior Jay Rivera said, "Radford is a unique melting pot. It fuses the aloha spirit and ideas of many cultures due to its military population."
According to sophomore Seyna McArthur, the multitude of student backgrounds is a great means of socializing. "The more cultures we have here, the more we have an opportunity at bonding by sharing them," she said.
RHS has welcomed exchange students from Russia, Uzbekistan and Germany as way of introducing pupils to other cultures. Senior Beianqa Escamilla also cites the periodic visits of schools from Japan as a great way of further exposing students. "We get to meet people from different countries," she said, "and you just don't get that in the mainland."
Having students from many different backgrounds, it is inevitable that everyone is exposed to aspects of culture other than their own. "We get to see different cultural dances, which is great" said Escamilla.
Evans' tummy has his diverse group of friends to thank. "My friend Brian Boado introduced me to mamon and it was pretty good ... and my friends Edwin and Arianne Carpio introduced me to lumpia, which I absolutely love." Rather than cooking up controversy, RHS racial differences have offered its students a whole menu of different experiences.
Transition Center helps new students acclimate
Since its inception five years ago, the Transition Center has gained national recognition. To address the high percentage of military dependents that transfer schools on a regular basis, Radford High School developed a program to provide preparation and support for all transitioning students into the school and community. Twelve student facilitators and three part-time teachers offer an orientation to RHS, a lunch buddy program and tutoring for students.
The RHS Transition Center is identified by a big plaque on the door dedicating the room to Command Sgt. Maj. Clarence Wilhelm. Inscribed on the plaque is the center's slogan: "Malama I Na Haumana," which means "Caring for Students," an apt and fitting description of the Transition Center.
"The only way to describe it is big," said Zachary Wilson, grade nine, who recently moved to Hawaii from New York.
Due partly to the success of the Transition Center at transitioning students RHS, Robert Stevens received the Hawaii Principal of the Year award in the 2005-06 school year.
"The Transition Center is part of the Radford team, helping to find answers and solutions to the variety of needs the transition students have," said Liz Gocong, a part-time teacher (PTT), said.
Each year, the Transition Center, its student facilitators, and the PTTs work with new students coming into RHS, whether they are from the mainland or from another high school in Hawaii. On average, the Transition Center helps about 225 new students a year and there have already been 85 new students who have gone through the center this year.
August saw close to 40 students transfer from abroad, the mainland and other schools statewide. New students hail from as far as Italy, Russia and China and as near as Waipahu and Farrington High Schools.
"The Transition Center is a fun place. I get to meet all the new students and get to know them before everyone else," said senior Morgan Howell, a student facilitator returning for her second year.
Student facilitators, including Howell, meet with new students and use their leadership skills to help students acclimate to RHS, help them make friends and give them positive experiences to remember as they become part of the RHS student body. Some of these experiences have motivated several facilitators who have gone through the Transition Center program to now help those who are in a similar position as they once were.
Several facilitators returned for their second or third year this school year, including junior Alicia Bonifacio, who has returned to the Transition Center for the second year as a facilitator.
"I like being a facilitator because it helps with leadership and speech skills, having to stand up in front of people a lot," said Bonifacio. "It's a great experience and I like how I get to meet new people and make new friends. I have a lot of fun."
During the year, facilitators eat with new students and hang out with them in order to make them feel more comfortable around RHS. During study hall on Tuesdays and Thursdays, student facilitators teach four units: Looking at Radford, Uniqueness of Hawaii, Coping with Stress and Change, and Understanding Yourself. Through games and activities that correspond with the unit's theme, students learn more about themselves and their new environment as well as provide them with an opportunity to have fun.
"Coming to Radford has been a very interesting experience," said senior Thomas Kenney, who moved from South Korea. "The facilitators and Transition Center made it much easier to transfer into the school ... something that I have never seen before."
"What is the most unusual Christmas gift you received?"
"Jar of pickles."
"A lump of coal."
"I got a nose flute."
"String. I still don't know why I got that."
"In the fifth grade, I got toys I already own. My mom went in my room and wrapped up my old dolls because I never played with them."
"A pink Power Ranger suit."