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“Stand tall, sit tall, and be proud, please,” said Itsue Hino to the class of 2013 graduates from several schools at Saturday’s 59th Baccalaureate service in Honokaa. “Talking to you now takes me back 75 years.”
In celebration of Honokaa High and Intermediate School’s very first graduating class in 1938, Hino and classmates Florence Botelho and Fujie Matsunami were special honorees at the event, where students had a chance to say thank you to their teachers.
“We are ever so grateful to the thoughtful and caring teachers we had,” said Hino, who thanked two of her own favorite teachers, Grace Lam Katsuura, who left them with a memorable recipe for Chinese steamed fish, and Janela Peterson who took their small journalism class to Oahu for the first time—by boat from Kawaihae.
“We waited and waited, for the Parker Ranch cattle to go on board first,” said Hino, holding her nose. “We shared steerage with the cattle.”
As if to make up for the smelly memory, the social hall of Honokaa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple filled with wonderful aromas of foil-covered dishes, laid out for the buffet dinner to follow, as more than 80 students, families and friends enjoyed the presentation. Special guests included Senator Malama Solomon and sister Hulali Solomon Covington, Representative Mark Nakashima, School Complex Area Superintendent Art Souza and Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter.
Reverend Kosho Yagi presided over the events, including a keynote talk by Reverend David Fujimoto of Puna Hongwanji, music by the New Dharma Band and a presentation by Thelma Ryusaki of the Richard and Eleanor Imai Scholarship Foundation of a $3,200 scholarship to graduate Amanda Agdeppa, who will attend Wooster Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.
HHIS teachers Miles Okumura and Joy Kawachica read the students’ messages of gratitude for their teachers, simple and heartfelt.
“I would like to thank Mr. Perrins for all the help he has given me over these past years, and the numerous hours he has put in to assure that I will graduate,” said William Hardisty. “I would also like to thank him for not giving up on me.”
“Ms. Hoopai,” wrote Stevienix Baji, “You treated me like your own … I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Courtney Oshiro wrote, “My wrestling coach Dan Whetstone. He helped me gain confidence in high school.”
“Auntie Steph,” wrote Rio Waimil. “She gives me grinds and helps me with school.”
Altogether, 11 students participated, and all received prizes from Café Il Mondo in Honokaa and Domino’s Pizza in Waimea, sponsors of the baccalaureate. But it was Hino’s talk that set the tone, stole the stage and touched the hearts of the audience, young and old.
“You know, you young people speak a strange language,” she said. “‘Face book,’ ‘shout out,’ and words like that … So, there are two foreign words I would like to give you,” said Hino. “They meant a lot to my mother; she used them all the time and they are so precious to me.”
“’Arrigata, ‘be grateful.’ And ‘gaman,’ persevere,’” she said, passing a powerful legacy down the generations. “You have a great future ahead of you. Make it positive.” Rewarded with a standing ovation, the tiny woman stood tall enough to give the class of 2013 someone to look up to.”