Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, June 21, 2001


Kahuku High School biology teacher Iris Gonzales is
organizing an around-the-island endurance race to
raise funds for a new biotechnology class.

Teacher hopes
challenge leads
to learning

Endurance test may help
Kahuku students get needed
biology equipment

By Brandon Lee

KAHUKU High School biology teacher Iris Gonzales likes to challenge herself the way she does her students -- mentally and physically.

After taking a biotechnology class with other teachers at the University of Hawaii last summer, Gonzales decided to offer a new course on the subject at Kahuku.

Initial student response to the proposed class that will start this fall was positive.

The problem is that the Kahuku Science Department does not have the necessary laboratory equipment, supplies and other resources for the brand-new course, nor the money to get them.

So the 31-year-old Gonzales -- who also serves as surf coach of the three-time defending prep champion Red Raiders -- and a friend of hers came up with an idea to help raise the money: The Red Raider Island Challenge.

"When I hear people complaining about things, I always tell them you can't complain without trying to do something about it," Gonzales said.

"The theme in my classes is 'total-quality learning,' and if there is something I can do to improve the quality of the classes, I'll do it."

Gonzales will attempt an extreme endurance test -- somewhat similar to the well-publicized Eco-Challenge Expedition Race -- that involves paddleboarding, biking and running around the 134-mile perimeter of Oahu.

Students and parents interested in the biotechnology course have been soliciting monetary pledges per every mile that Gonzales completes, as well as donations of lump-sums of money, equipment and other supplies.

Gonzales said the target amount they hope to raise from the challenge is $5,000, which will cover the bare minimum for basic lab equipment and necessary supplies.

According to Gonzales, biotechnology involves the study of microorganisms like plant cells to solve problems and improve health and life in general.

"The kids are really excited about the class," Gonzales said. "They've been driving into town and also calling people (for pledges). The kids are spending part of their summer for a class next year; they want to be in this class."

Gonzales will begin the challenge next Monday at sunrise at Turtle Bay on the North Shore. She will paddleboard from there to Pokai Bay with an escort boat.

Gonzales' students will be waiting with her bicycle at Pokai Bay, from which she will ride to Heeia Kea Boat Harbor. The Challenge will conclude with Gonzales running from the harbor back to Kahuku.

Gonzales is not sure how long the challenge will take to complete, since she hasn't done a practice run of the entire course. She has been training in all three disciplines about four hours a day and isn't so much concerned with the time as simply finishing.

Besides being a surf nut, Gonzales said that she does all three challenge sports "all the time." She participated in a triathlon while in college on the mainland, and competes locally in paddleboard races, running races and half-marathons. Yet her familiarity with the events by no means lends Gonzales to believe that the challenge will be easy.

"Usually if I do this type of thing, I would do just one (of the three different events)," she said. "I've never done anything like this, but I'm always willing to try anything. I'm hoping that I can influence (my students) enough so that they can take something from my class, even if it's not science."

Anyone interested in making a pledge or any other type of donation can call 293-8950, extension 229.

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