"You come from Nanakuli?" remarked one surprised student. "Isn't that the school that has students who carry guns and commit murders right on campus? I heard that everyone's on drugs and that no one even goes to their classes."
By Sheena Mendonca
Ka Leo 'O Nanakuli
I heard these remarks while meeting students from various high schools in Hawaii during an educational program called Upward Bound this summer at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
When introductions were being made, I would always receive the same reactions: shocked faces and negative remarks about the school and the community I come from.
It was as though they were surprised that Nanakuli could produce a student who actually wanted to learn and try new experiences. I was embarrassed.
I felt that I wasn't going to get an equal chance to share in the program because others would judge me by my background rather than my personality and achievements.
I hesitated to tell anyone what school I came from because each time I answered, "Nanakuli," I felt judgment taking place.
Even though things got better and I had a successful summer making new friends, the experience made me realize how badly Nanakuli High & Intermediate School has been stereotyped by others. It made me wonder why Nanakuli would be portrayed that way when in reality it is not like that at all.
My school has many programs, as well as teachers and students, who have made a great name for themselves and for the school in academics and other programs.
>> The Graphic Arts and Woods programs have helped students develop their skills in these areas and have produced state winners in the VICA competition. For the last two years, Nanakuli has won first place in carpentry and has sent a student to represent Hawaii in the national competition.And yes, Nanakuli High School has had a number of students who have gone on to post-secondary education at Harvard University and other mainland institutions.
>> Nanakuli's Health Occupations Program has helped organize blood drives and volunteer services where students have learned about various health field occupations.
>> Nanakuli Intermediate has placed first in the Leeward District Math Bowl for several years.
>> The Hawaiian Culture and Arts class is a unique program that integrates Hawaiian history, culture and performance.
>> Nanakuli's Performing Arts Program has participated in the Hawaii State Theater Olympics, winning multiple first place awards. It has performed often at national and state functions.
>> The JROTC program is recognized as one of Hawaii's best.
>> The news media class that produces the Ka Leo 'O Nanakuli newspaper and news video show has been locally and nationally recognized for its stories and video segments.
>> The Audio-Visual department has produced video productions for state and city organizations.
>> The annual Song Festival over the past 11 years has helped students share their appreciation for the Hawaiian language and culture with community members.
Not only does Nanakuli support students in academics, the school and community support students in personal matters.
Students and teachers have an understanding and respect that brings them closer, making it easier for students to learn.
Since we are such a small community, everyone knows each other, making the school also a home away from home, where students, teachers and staff become a second family.
"To me, this school is special because everybody is mostly family, and it doesn't matter what race you are because we all accept you for who you are," said Venecia Miles-Curtis, a senior. "The aloha spirit is really strong here, and that's what brings out the Hawaiian culture, and I'm proud to be a student at NHIS."
Like any other school, Nanakuli has had its share of problems, but the school has shown the ability to take control and bring happiness and vitality back to its campus.
Sophomore Rainalen Dunno said: "I feel Nanakuli is special because everyone has their own way of showing nonconformity. I believe that Nanakuli has a great way of teaching integrity and divine nature."
The reality is that Nanakuli is a place filled with beauty and aloha. Hopefully, more people will experience this and change their negative stereotypes.
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