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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hilo High celebrates 100 years

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

Rene Shindo, class of 1978, and Fred Fukuchi, class of 1954, will help Hilo High school celebrate its 100th anniversary with events from Sept. 24 to 30, featuring concerts, receptions, campus tours, food and craft booths and an alumni variety show.

KEVIN DAYTON | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Where: 556 Waianuenue Ave., Hilo

Phone: (808) 974-4021

Principal: Robert Dircks, one year

School nickname: Vikings

School colors: Blue and gold

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

History: Hilo High School has been serving the community of Hilo since 1906. This year is its Centennial Celebration.

Testing: Here's how Hilo High School students fared on the most recent standardized tests.

• 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, 69 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, 42 percent, compared with state average of 42.3 percent; math, 17 percent, compared with 19.6 percent.

Enrollment: 1,560 students (projected enrollment of 1,607 in 2006-07) in school capable of supporting about 1,300.

Low-income enrollment: 51 percent.

Computers: Three computer labs (including within the school library) and one mobile multi-laptop unit.

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For information on Hilo High's 100th birthday celebration: www.hilohs.k12.hi.us

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HILO, Hawai'i To help illustrate some of the changes Hilo High School has undergone in the century since it was founded, Waiakea resident Fred Fukuchi offers memories from five decades ago.

Fukuchi recalls paying a dime to ride the Hilo sampan bus from his home in Waiakea Uka to Hilo High, the only high school in town at the time. He often arrived barefoot, but thought nothing of it because his friends were shoeless as well.

Fukuchi was the youngest of nine children born to a Japanese picture bride and a fisherman.

By the time he was enrolled in high school in the early 1950s, his father had died and his older siblings were hard at work supporting the family.

When he toured the Hilo High campus for his 50th class reunion two years ago, Fukuchi marveled at the cell phones, computers and flash of jewelry as well as the stylish clothes and kids who drove their own cars to school.

To Fukuchi, Hilo High is a school transformed, with a cafeteria where he remembers the wood shop used to be, and a swimming pool where the library used to be.

The old Mauka Building that burned down in 1977 has been replaced by the massive two-story, concrete C Building. The old banyan tree that stood near the front of the school auditorium built in 1927 is long gone.

Yet Fukuchi witnessed a mere 50 years of change, just over half of the transformations during the century since Hilo High was founded in 1906.

Hilo High students, staff and alumni will hold a Centennial Celebration for the school Sept. 24-30, featuring concerts, receptions, campus tours, food and craft booths and an alumni variety show.

Graduates plan to return from as far away as New York and Illinois and, on Sept. 24, former principals and retired Hilo High teachers will cut and serve slices of a birthday cake big enough to serve 1,000, said Rene Shindo (Class of 1978), a Hilo High biology teacher and chairwoman of the on-campus centennial events.

The event will be capped by the homecoming football game at Wong Stadium against cross-island rival Konawaena High.

Today, Hilo High has about 1,560 students. Hilo High's first graduating class of 1909 had just seven students, but some alumni believe the school has retained a special character over the years.

One is Lloyd Matsunami, who was student body president in 1968, and returned years later to work at the school as a counselor and vice principal.

"What has continued is a great mix of students from all backgrounds, parents from all backgrounds and teachers who work well in that kind of school," Matsunami said. "The warmth of Hilo High School is still alive and well."

  • What are you most proud of? "I must say that I am most proud of the students here at Hilo High," Principal Robert Dircks said. "All of our students possess a very special Viking spirit, which is what attracted me to Hilo High School from the very beginning."

  • Best-kept secret: "Viking Pride. This mindset runs far and deep."

  • Everybody at our school knows: "Ma," a.k.a. Charlene Masuhara. Ma is presently a counselor and a former teacher and has been affiliated with the school for ... well, let's just say ... a "long time," Dircks said.

  • Our biggest challenge: "Meeting all of the needs of our students. The staff here at Hilo High School are encouraged by the fact that all of our graduates continue to feel a sense of personal fulfillment and are ready to take on any and all future endeavors."

  • What we need: "The school needs more space to ensure that the learning environment remains safe and accessible for our growing number of students who not only live in our geographical area but also for those young men and women living outside of our boundaries who wish to attend Hilo High School."

  • Special events: The Centennial Celebration will be this year's most anticipated event. "Happy 100. Go Vikings!"

  • Notable alumni: "There are many notable and supportive alumni that should be mentioned," Dircks said. "Who I would like to acknowledge and thank for his continual and tireless community service and support is Barry Taniguchi. There are many initiatives here at Hilo High School that Barry has had a hand in."

    Reach Kevin Dayton at kdayton@honoluluadvertiser.com.