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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 17, 2001

Teacher to log 134 miles to help Kahuku students

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser North Shore Bureau

When teacher Iris Gonzales paddle-boards, bikes and runs around parts of O'ahu this month on behalf of her students, she will be carrying on a Kahuku tradition.

Iris Gonzales will paddle, ride her bike and run in the Red Raider Challenge to raise money for a class she plans to teach.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

Family, community and religion are the cornerstones of this small town on O'ahu's North Shore, and Kahuku High and Intermediate School is where everything comes together in an outpouring of pride and achievement, community support and student accomplishment.

This school year alone, Red Raider students became the state football champions, won the "We the People" competition for insights into the U.S. Constitution; took the O'ahu Interscholastic Association's Eastern Division girls soccer title; received a JROTC "honor unit with distinction" award and dominated Ha-

wai'i History Day, winning four first places and taking 13 of 24 places in the junior and senior divisions. Furthermore, Kahuku seniors collected more than $1 million in scholarships.

"There's a great culture here that sets high expectations and also provides support structure," said principal Lisa DeLong.

Gonzales belongs to a long line of teachers, principals, parents and community members dedicated to students' success at Kahuku, where children from the area between Kualoa and Pupukea attend classes, said DeLong.

As Gonzales covers 134 miles, circling O'ahu in the Red Raider Island Challenge, she will be raising money for a new biotechnology class she will teach at Kahuku. She and students are collecting pledges for the June 25 challenge that will see her paddle-board from Turtle Bay to Poka'i Bay, bike from Poka'i Bay to He'eia, and run from He'eia to Kahuku. She will begin her day at sunrise at the Hilton Turtle Bay Golf and Tennis Resort.

The 31-year-old biology teacher wants to give students a taste of biotechnology, including forensics, DNA sampling and genetic engineering. But the money she receives yearly for her science classes won't even cover animal dissection, Gonzales said. She'll receive $444 and may spend up to $1,000 of her own money as she did last school year. For the biotechnology course, she needs about $5,000.

"I'm not complaining, but I'm not sitting around and waiting for the money from the state," Gonzales said, adding that she's doing this to give students opportunities to become more familiar with the field and perhaps choose to make it a career.

Don Hurlbut, past Kahuku Community Association president and Ko'olauloa Neighborhood Board member, credits the churches, the school leadership, community support and student pride for all the good things flowing from the school.

"It's the 'ohana too," said Hurlbut, who has raised six children and lived in La'ie and Kahuku for more than 30 years. "The families are sticking together."

Take the Hamashige family. The descendants of plantation-era parents, they have not lived here for 50 years. Yet, they turned out for graduation to pass out the scholarships made possible by an endowment they set up for the school six years ago. Perhaps taking a cue from the Hamashige family, this year's graduates set up another endowment with some of the money raised for Project Graduation

In the community, the Kahuku Education Alliance Corp. is working to set up e-commerce for the Red Raiders, and a media company has expressed interest in making a movie about the school, DeLong said.

Unfortunately, she said, the story will unfold following a dark moment in the high school's history in which unknown people threw rocks at a visiting school's bus after a sporting event some years ago. DeLong said while the school would like to forget that incident, it did inspire some soul-searching.

"The incident served as a call to action for the school and the community," she said. "They got together and said: This isn't Kahuku. This isn't what we want to be known for."

To contribute to the pledge drive, call 293-8950, ext. 229.