AMBER MOSTOLES / KA LEO O KE KOA
Construction on the WHS administration building continues through the 2007-2008 school year. The structure was severely damaged in a fire caused by arsonists two years ago.
Reign of change
Waiakea continues to flourish under new principal Kelcy Koga
HILO » Change isn't always easy to adapt to, but this wasn't the case for Waiakea High School during the 2007-2008 academic school year. The Big Island high school, under the direction of new principal Kelcy Koga, stayed on the right track through the recent adjustments. Waiakea Warriors flourished academically, in competition, and in BIIF and HHSAA sports.
Waiakea High School
Ka Leo O Ke Koa
(The Voice of the Warrior)
155 W. Kawili Street
Hilo, HI 96720
Formerly the school's vice principal, Koga jumped on the opportunity to take over as principal at the end of the first semester of the 2006-2007 school year.
"I enjoy working at Waiakea. Sometimes it gets crazy, but the majority of the students are great kids," Koga said of his first full year at Waiakea. "Even the ones that get into trouble are good, but just make mistakes. I am proud to have the job to help out and put the people who need it onto the right track."
Regarding the future, Koga sees the necessity of reform and, inevitably, change. "We plan to have a lot of improvements on the academies and houses, a slow implementation of reform. We also plan to work on the violence policy to ensure its success in the near future," he said.
At the annual welcome back assembly, new and returning students were greeted by their new principal, who introduced a "Zero-Tolerance Policy." This policy initiated a set of appropriately strict rules against acts of violence such as assault, harassment, fighting, or threats. Consequences include month-long suspension or, alternatively, 10 days of anger-management classes as a more education-conscious option. The amount of violence on campus has dropped drastically since, and safety at Waiakea has risen.
Also introduced at the welcoming assembly was, in Waiakea tradition, the year's Student Government Association motto: Finding the Leader in You, or F.L.Y.! This was presented to the students in the form of a play in which unmotivated students take advantage of their capabilities and excel, inspiring other students to do the same in real life.
In October, the annual Homecoming Rally kicked off Homecoming celebration. Students participated in class competitions like decorating, festooning the gym with crepe paper and banners, and mascot dance-offs. In the traditional male cheerleading competition, the junior class once again prevailed with their hilarious dance routine, which included costumes evocative of the year's "Rev It Up!" biker theme. The classes then came together as Warriors to cheer on Waiakea's varsity football team to an intense victory over cross-town rivals Hilo High Vikings, with a final score of 21-20.
In January, the senior class hosted a blood drive, collecting a total of 139 pints of blood for the Blood Bank of Hawaii. In mid-February, the school's variety show highlighted its top musical performers, as well as class portrayals of music and dancing from the '50s, '60s, '70s and '90s in their performance themed "Dazzling Decades."
The Waiakea High School Robotics team traveled to Japan to compete this year, where they claimed first place in several categories of the International Microbots Competition. They continued to demonstrate their prowess after taking second place in the Silicon Valley Regional FIRST Robotics competition, where they achieved numerous accolades such as the prestigious Engineering Inspiration Award.
Making a splash in high school athletics throughout the state, Waiakea High BIIF champions sent to the HHSAA tournament this year include state champion wrestler Ryan Higa, the girls varsity basketball team, boys and girls bowling teams, boys volleyball, baseball, softball, air riflery, golf, judo and tennis. Also making an appearance at state competitions were the boys varsity soccer team and numerous track and cross-country runners.
After a highly successful year at Waiakea High School, the Warriors continue to look forward to the future and to continued improvement. With plans in place for transformation, an even better school is just a change away.
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Pies for pages
Reading Challenge promotes literacy in unexpected ways
HILO » Waiakea High School's Reading Challenge came -- quite literally -- to a sweet and sticky end.
Clad in garbage bags and protective goggles, teachers fended off whipped-cream pies on April 3 to celebrate student literacy and National Library Week. Students purchased pies for $1 apiece, lining up to irreverently plant plates of whipped cream in the faces of willing victims like Japanese teacher Lynn Otsubo, Social Studies teacher Joey Watts, English teacher Kim Williamson and even Principal Kelcy Koga.
The Reading Challenge campaign, sponsored by the WHS library, was an effort to boost student literacy, celebrate the library and also expand the online book reviews incorporated into the open-access catalog. Drawn from a similar Reading Challenge several years ago in which former Principal Patricia Nekoba had volunteered to dye her hair in the colors of the class that read the most books, this year's campaign produced far better results (a total of 1,500 books) than the previous mark of 176 titles. Circulation at the library increased twofold during the challenge, according to WHS librarian and event coordinator Gloria Kobayashi, and students read as much in three quarters as they had read in all of last school year.
Students read books and then wrote reviews on paper or through the online system. "Kids have asked us in the past for suggestions on what to read, but young adults read different things -- are interested in different things -- than adults," WHS librarian Rosemary French said. "This way, we can look up reviews and point them in the right direction."
AMBER MOSTOLES / KA LEO O KE KOA
Waiakea High School Principal Kelcy Koga and other staff members prepare to be "pied" in the grand finale of the Reading Challenge, a campaign by the WHS library to promote literacy and reading among students.
By event's end, cream-laden Otsubo was probably the most popular teacher to be "pied." "When the pies hit you straight on ... I couldn't see who threw what or when or how," she said. "But if it gets people to read, you know?" Otsubo, like several other teachers, had even made her own contribution, a drama novel by Anne Davis.
Security guard "Aunty Pua" Chartrand also lent incentive to the Reading Challenge, promising to wear a dress -- unthinkable for the intimidating keeper of the peace -- if students read a quarter of a million pages in total by the deadline. "She was the inspiration," said Kobayashi. "Without her, we would have never seen the results that we did."
Students would come up to Chartrand, she said, and wave books at her tauntingly to show that they were reading. "I (knew) some of these kids will pick up a book and read," Chartrand said. "(They) needed an incentive ... if the kids took the challenge, I'm glad for that." She was inspired by her mother, who had always taught her children to help out whenever they could.
While the school didn't meet the 250,000 page mark, students and teachers read 1,500 books for a total of 167,582 pages -- an impressive 65 percent of the goal.
Koga offered to dress up as the mascot of the class who read the most books at the biggest boys volleyball game of the season against Kamehameha Schools Hawaii on April 23. Particularly impressive was sophomore Chanel Chamberlin-Bautista's record 113-book streak, which helped the Sophomore Jaguars take the lead with 593 points by the April 11 deadline. And so, on April 23, Koga jumped up and down enthusiastically in a black jaguar suit with the Waiakea cheer squad.
"Nobody reads anymore. They YouTube, they text," said Kobayashi. "I was surprised that we got this far, (but) it goes to show that if the kids have the right challenge ...."
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"What would you like to see change at Waiakea High?"
"I'd like to see air conditioning in classrooms because during the day it gets hot and people can't think when it's hot."
"I want to see a change in the food we eat, and in the attendance policy. It shouldn't matter as long as we pass."
"More variety in our class choices, so that students can have more options for registration."
"I would like to see everyone in Waiakea High T-shirts every day. Waiakea? Because our future matters!"
"More school-spirit-based events."
"A more lenient attendance policy."