560 kids blend into Hilo Intermediate
By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Mary Vorsino
The 560 seventh- and eighth-graders who attend Hilo Intermediate come from six feeder schools across the Big Island. With students coming from so many different communities, there could be a lot of trouble at the campus.
But there isn't.
"If this were any other school, it would be a war zone," said Principal Elaine Christian. "But here, you see these kids blend. I see them grow."
Christian, who has been at the school for nine years, said her students overcome a host of economic and personal challenges to succeed.
Though the school is struggling to meet the demands of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, it has seen test scores improve for the last two years.
The school was put into restructuring in 2004.
"We may not be a rich and fancy school," Christian said. "But our kids have so much heart. That's what makes our school unique."
The school emphasizes students' futures. Students are consistently asked — by teachers, staff, even janitors — to think about what they want to do when they graduate from high school. What they want to be. Where they will live.
Christian said she wants all of her students to envision themselves as high school and college graduates. And she often encourages her kids to find mentors in teachers, staff members or members of the community. The idea has caught on in a big way. A custodian at the school who played in the World Series sits with students regularly to talk about what it takes to be a college baseball player.
And the cafeteria's head cook can often be found discussing the food business with future restaurateurs and chefs. "These kids will seek these people out," Christian said. "It's fairly unique. I see so many opportunities in it."
Christian says she loves Hilo Intermediate and its students so much she doesn't want to leave. She plans to retire from the school — in five or six years.
The school's band is a popular elective among students. About 75 seventh-graders and 50 eighth-graders play — and many have never before picked up an instrument. "By the time they get to the eighth grade, these children are really performing in the high school level," Christian said. "If you heard this band, you'd be so amazed."
Christian said she's had to be creative with her budget — and budget cuts. This year, kids at the school didn't have a single field trip because the school couldn't afford buses. Though the trips were missed, not a single student or teacher grumbled. "I didn't have one complaint," Christian said.
Reach Mary Vorsino at firstname.lastname@example.org.