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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 22, 2001

Community always there for Wai'anae High

By James Gonser
Advertiser Leeward Bureau

Wai'anae High School seniors Jessica Roane and Kai Cocquio work on project in the school's recording studio. The mass media program is among several award-winning programs at the school. 'Olelo, the Corporation for Community Television, will be moving on campus.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

On one side is the Pacific Ocean, a playground for children growing up on the Leeward Coast, and on the other is Farrington Highway, deemed unsafe by many community members because of its many traffic fatalities over the years.

In between sits Wai'anae High School, a ray of hope for young people trying to make a better life for themselves in the economically depressed rural community of 40,000.

According to the state Department of Education, both the median household income and per capita income levels in Wai'anae are below the state average and almost 20 percent of households in the area receive public assistance, compared with only 6.8 percent statewide.

To give the students a boost in career training, the school has many dedicated teachers and award-winning programs in mass media, aquaculture, Hawaiian studies and health care.

The school also enjoys the support of alumni and community volunteers who work to make improvements at the aging campus. Many rallied last year to provide volunteer labor to keep the school's graduation at home rather than moving the ceremony to Honolulu.

"More and more people are acknowledging there are problems," said principal JoAnne Kumasaka. "We are getting more invitations to talk at the Neighborhood Board, and people are asking how they can help. Our representatives in the Legislature also lend quite a bit of support."

  • What are you most proud of?: "Several things. But our Health Services Pathway program is really taking off. The program is growing, and we have kids who are seriously looking into the health field because of their experiences in the program," Kumasaka said.
  • Best-kept secret: "I think it is that our kids are just so great. They are the nicest kids in the state. They may have a bad reputation, but I think they enjoy their reputation to a certain extent."
  • Everybody at our school knows: Social workers Dolores Wiedmen and Ron Chinen. "They talk to everyone, adults and students. Everybody can count on them."
  • Our biggest challenge: Trying to get all students to meet academic standards.
  • What we need: "More teachers out here that are willing to commit to a long-term stay at Wai'anae High School."
  • Projects: 'Olelo, the Corporation for Community Television moving on campus. "We have a memorandum of agreement to say our kids will work alongside them on projects. It will bring even more opportunities."
  • Special events: In limbo because of a possible teachers strike. "Unfortunately it affects so many things. All our plans have to be put on hold."
  • Notable alumni: John DeSoto, class of 1965, Honolulu City Councilman and motocross racing champion; Fiamalu Penitani, 1989, sumo wrestler; Kurt Gouveia, 1985, pro football player; Mike Kahikina, 1968, member of the state House of Representatives; the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, 1977, renowned recording artist and Hawai'i icon.

To get your school profiled, call education editor Dan Woods at 525-5441 or e-mail dwoods@ honoluluadvertiser.com.

At a glance

Vitals: 85-251 Farrington Highway, Wai'anae, 697-7017

Web address: www.waianae.k12.hi.us

Principal: JoAnne Kumasaka, since 1999-2000. This is her sixth year at Wai'anae; she previously was vice principal.

School nickname / Colors: Seariders, red and blue

Enrollment: 1,980 students

SATs: For the most recent Stanford Achievement Test, listed is the combined percentage of students scoring average and above average, compared with the national combined average of 77 percent. Tenth-grade reading, 61 percent; math, 49 percent.

History: Opened in 1957.

Special programs: Searider Productions: The Mass Media Communications and Journalism Program, with more than 350 students enrolled, is the state's largest and the only one to integrate video production, radio broadcasting, music recording, Web publishing, newswriting, yearbook publishing.

  • Marine Science Learning Center: Wai'anae High is the state's official Marine Science Learning Center.
  • Hui O Na Opio O Waianae and the Hawaiian Language Program: Offers students the chance to experience and learn about ancient Hawaiians, including learning to speak Hawaiian.
  • Health Services Pathway program: Offers hands-on learning to juniors and seniors in the medical field, including labor and delivery, pediatrics, surgery, pharmacy and emergency departments.

Computers: The school has two computer labs, but not computers in every classroom.