Star-Bulletin Features

Hawaii's Schools

Konawaena's recent Keiki Farm Fair featured a petting zoo where children could get up close with farm animals.

Konawaena farm
grows pride in students

Agriculture students take
classes and care for the farm
with their own 2 hands

Activities at ‘new’ Konawaena belie movie’s portrayal

By Rachel Brown
Konawaena High School

Up the hill behind Konawaena High School, a secret is hidden. It's a pretty big secret, almost 5 acres in size. It's an ongoing secret, started back in 1995, and even today comes up with new traditions.

The secret is 'Aina I Ka Pono, meaning "to honor and take care of the land." And it is Konawaena's farm.

The 5-acre farm has a barn, corral, taro and coffee patches, farm kitchen and aquaculture tanks.

All of this is planned and maintained by the agriculture students of Konawaena.

Currently living on the farm are four miniature horses, including one newborn; four potbelly pigs, one feral and one domesticated pig; six sheep; one donkey; three horses; one Holstein steer; one dwarf calf; four ducks; three geese; and "plenty" chickens, fishes and cockatiels. The roll call is in a constant state of change. New animals are purchased, and old animals are sold or used for food.

The "little red barn," as it is affectionately called, was built in 1997 and opened in March 1998. It is 30 feet by 30 feet and took 12 months to complete. Two journeyman carpenters came and taught the students how to do the carpentry, and many people in the community donated materials and expertise. But the main bulk of the planning and labor was done by students.

Agriculture teacher Maverick Kawamoto let the students do the work "so they feel that it's their project, their land." Students agree, and past graduates as well as current students say it gives them a sense of pride to maintain the farm.

Kawamoto says, "After a while it becomes their farm, and by the end of the year, hopefully they're telling me what needs to be done."

The farm and its inhabitants are open to the public during school hours. Tours are free and given by students.

The Konawaena Barnyard Friends Petting Zoo is a favorite field trip site for preschool and elementary school students. The farm annually caters to 2,500 people a year from around the world, including England, Micronesia, Canada, New Zealand and the mainland United States. Tours include petting and feeding the animals, horse rides and a crash course in farm and animal care.

Many students enrolled at Konawaena have never seen farm animals up close, let alone interacted with them. The agriculture department offers a wide range of classes for all kinds of people, even those who don't know the first thing about farms.

Students can take Aquascience, Agriculture Technology 1 and 2, Agriculture Power/Tech 1 and 2, and Horsemanship.

Konawaena is the only school in Hawaii to offer the Horsemanship class.

Freshmen must take half a quarter of agriculture in the Career Explorations portion of their guidance class.

Also associated with the agriculture department is the Konawaena chapter of the Future Farmers of America (FFA). This chapter, started in 1929, was the first to be started in Hawaii and continues today.

The FFA recently hosted its fourth annual Keiki Farm Day to raise money for the farm. People paid $3 to bring the family and have fun on Konawaena's farm. There was chili, a petting zoo, naming games for the new calf and baby horse, chicken-poop Bingo, horse rides and carriage rides. This event always has a good turnout, and everyone has a good time, including the students who organize and staff the event.


Junior Honors English class members showed off their "Futurama" costumes during Konawaena's recent Spirit Week.

Activities at ‘new’ Konawaena
belie movie’s portrayal

By Andrew Ogata
Konawaena High School

Mokes, gangsters, bloody fights. That's how David Cunningham portrayed Konawaena High School in his movie, "Beyond Paradise." When the movie aired in 1997, audiences were shown a Konawaena that shocked and awed them. Konawaena was portrayed as a gangster school with buildings covered with graffiti.

One of the movie's main themes is the tension at school between different ethnic groups. The main character in the movie is a Caucasian who moves to Hawaii from California and finds himself suffering from culture shock and racial abuse. He sees discrimination against Caucasians all around him. The local students in the movie harass and fight with them.

Although some of the things shown may once have been true, they are not anymore. It is true that in the 1990s the school was crowded, and fights were a common occurrence.

However, since the opening of a new school across town in 1997, a whole new Konawaena has emerged. The student population has dropped by more than half, to 850 from 2,100, and fights on campus are rare.

In spite of Konawaena's size, it is quality, not quantity, that matters. The student population is a mixture of different cultures and traditions. Contrary to the movie, the largest groups are Caucasian and part-Hawaiian (both at 29 percent of the population), with Japanese (10 percent), Filipinos (9 percent), Hawaiians (3 percent), Portuguese (2 percent), Hispanics, Koreans, Chinese and Marshallese making up the rest.

The diversity of Konawaena is expressed through student activities like the May Day ceremony. This year's May Day will be a celebration of the cultures of different clubs on campus.

Another student activity in March was the first Talent Show. Students volunteered talents including Japanese taiko, a Hawaiian medley, an original rap song and a punk medley.

Student-initiated efforts also have resulted in a face lift for the school cafeteria and schoolwide community service projects such as a senior citizens' recreational dance. At the dance, the students visit a retirement home and bring along music, a blank dance card and their spirit of fun.

Academics at Konawaena are nothing to be laughed at, either. With an academic and science team, and the school Math League in title contention for the first time in decades, Konawaena is at the forefront of academic achievement.

The school is home to AP scholars and award-winning teachers such as Liane Martin, who recently won the Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year Award in Hawaii. Many teachers are at school hours before the bell rings, giving students an opportunity to improve their studies and grades.

The Konawaena athletic department is a shining example of first-class athletics. Konawaena holds more Big Island Interscholastic Federation championships than any other school on the island, tying for first in football this past fall.

The department has a wide range of sports to offer, from baseball and tennis to judo and paddling. Paddling is new for Konawaena, but the girls team made it to states with only one month of practice.

Unlike the Konawaena presented in the movie, today Konawaena is a "mixed plate" of people and activities.




Art Each week, Hawaii's teenage reporters and photographers tell us about their high school. This week's school is Konawaena High School on the Big Island.

Newspaper: The Wildcat
Editor: Andrew Ogata
Faculty adviser: Melissa Otaguro
Next week: Lahainaluna High School
Konawaena facts
Address: 81-1043 Konawaena School Road, Kealakekua, HI 96750
Founded: A ninth grade was added to the 54-year-old Grammar School in 1921, and the school added one class every year until the first senior class graduated in 1925.
Principal: James Dumaguin
Enrollment: 821
Average student-to-teacher ratio: 28-1
Campus size: 50 acres
Mascot: Wildcat
Colors: Green and white
Name origin: Konawaena means "center of Kona." Until 1997 it was the only high school in the Kona district.
School yearbook: Ka Wena O Kona

Famous alumni

>> Ellison Onizuka (Challenger astronaut)
>> Shane Dorian (professional surfer)
>> Lokelani McMichael (Ironman triathlete)




What is one thing that makes Konawaena unique?

Melveen Palea
"We have school pride!"

Jessica Hanato
"Because of different ethnic backgrounds, we (can) learn about different cultures."

Kevin Kukita
"Everybody knows each other."

Stemo Henriques
"The teachers have a lot of respect for the students."

Brandon Akao
"The way that everyone cares for one another. We're a family."

Stephanie Rice
"It is a small school, but there is a lot of diversity."

Kelly Kamigaki
"The teachers care about us."

James Bishop
"It has a good, friendly atmosphere."

Noelani Yamamoto
"The people!"

Kyra Hirai
"The way everyone is close so we can bond."

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.

E-mail to Features Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin