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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 17, 2006

175 and still going strong

By Brittany Yap
Advertiser Staff Writer

Lahaina's Front Street saw more than 2,000 students, parents, faculty, staff and alumni of Lahainaluna High School celebrate on the school's 175th anniversary on April 7. More than 3,000 people continued the celebration during a lu'au at the school's football field.

Michael Nakano

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Where: 980 Lahainaluna Road, Lahaina, Maui

Phone: (808) 662-4000

Web address: lahainaluna.k12.hi.us/lhshome.html

Principal: Michael Nakano, 12 years

School nickname: Lunas

School colors: Red, white

History: Lahainaluna was started as a seminary boarding school for men taught by missionaries to assist in the field of teaching. It was built by the Rev. Lorrin Andrews and opened on Sept. 5, 1831, as the first school west of the Rocky Mountains.

In 1849, Lahainaluna was shifted from the care of the American board of Mission to the Hawaiian government. In the fall of 1923, Lahainaluna became a public technical high school, admitting both girls and boys. Finally, in September 1961, this technical school was designated a comprehensive high school serving both boarders and day students.

Testing: Here's how Lahainaluna High School students fared on 2005 standardized tests (the most recent available).

• Stanford Achievement Test: Listed is the combined percentage of pupils scoring average and above average, compared with the national combined average of 77 percent. 10th-grade reading, 56 percent; math, 57 percent.

• Hawai'i State Assessment: Listed is the combined percentage of pupils meeting or exceeding state standards, and a comparison with the state averages. 10th-grade reading, 40 percent, compared with state average of 42.3 percent; math, 11 percent, compared with 19.6 percent.

Computers: The school has two computer labs. One is a math computer lab, and the other is a general computer lab. Every classroom has at least two computers, and some have more depending on what kind of class it is.

Enrollment: 1,010 students

Low-income enrollment: 13.8 percent in 2004-05

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Lahainaluna High School, the oldest school west of the Rockies, is marking its 175th anniversary this year.

More than 2,000 students, parents, faculty, staff and alumni marched in a celebratory parade down Lahaina's Front Street in early April.

"The highlight for the alumni was the parade," said Principal Michael Nakano. "There were reunions all over town (that weekend)."

That Saturday, more than 3,000 people continued the celebration during a lu'au at the school's football field. Entertainment and Hawaiian food were provided by the school. Students and alumni danced hula while boarders sang.

"I feel so honored that I am a part of an 'ohana that has such a great heritage," Nakano said.

The faculty and staff have activities planned for the students on Sept. 5, the school's official birthday. There will be an assembly and hula competition, among other things.

"Some of the things are a surprise," Nakano said.

The ever-changing demands on America's public schools aren't stopping Lahainaluna High from continuing its traditions.

Every year, a handful of students make an annual 90-minute climb up the mountain above the campus to pay their respects to David Malo, one of the school's first students and teachers. The students clean his grave, then drape lei over it. This month, students will drape 175 lei on Malo's grave to signify the 175 years the school has been open.

Lahainaluna is the only regular public school in the state to have a dorming program.

Nakano hopes the students and alumni will carry on the school's traditions and culture.

"Today is a fast-paced society," Nakano said. "We want the culture and traditions to continue to be passed down and see it being kept alive among the community, as well."

What are you most proud of? "The history and culture of the school. It's more of an 'ohana feeling on the campus. It's one of the few schools you can go to and it feels like family," Nakano said.

Best-kept secret: "Po'okela, the adult role model mentor program. All students are linked to an adult role model from their freshmen year, and whenever they need help, they can come to this person. They stay with this mentor for four years. It brings everybody closer together," Nakano said.

Everybody knows: Art Fillazar, the student activities coordinator. He's in charge of student government and coordinates a lot of community service activities and assemblies.

Our biggest challenge: "We have two. Number one is trying to keep the tradition, culture and 'ohana spirit alive at the school and in the community.

"The second is to make sure students have enough foundation in their learning so that they'll enter the real world and be successful," Nakano said.

What we need: "We need to renovate our facilities so that we can meet the challenges of the future. Like a new football field, stadium, gym and cafeteria. I would also like a performing arts center and media center," Nakano said.

Special events: Annual David Malo Day. Every April, Lahainaluna students host a lu'au and pageant as a "thank you" to the community. The Boarding Department also has a tradition of liming the "L" that sits on the mountain above the school. The boarders go up twice a year to make the "L" white, and on graduation day, after the seniors sing their final song, they light up the "L."

Interesting facts:

  • There is a graveyard on campus where missionaries are buried.

  • The school's boarding program consists of approximately 90 students from O'ahu, Lana'i, Moloka'i, the Big Island, the Marshall Islands and Maui.

    Reach Brittany Yap at byap@honoluluadvertiser.com.