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Running and writing and robotics

<p>Honokaa High and Intermediate School’s “Million Dollar Babies” include: Yvonne Daniels, Cortney Oshiro, Darus Ignacio, Mindy Silva, Amanda Agdeppa, Darienne Hannum, Rodel Lacanlale, Daisha Acorda, Gabriel Ramirez, Kelly Greenwell, Jovi Valencia, Sherma Ambida, Keanu Freitas, Serena Offenbaker, Angelo Gonzales, Yvonne Nitura, Eric Fune, Monica Carlos, Valentino Quijano-Moeckel, Pedro Sanchez. Not shown, Maiya Kauhi, Shawn Garcia, Keana Kaohimaunu, Mitchell Eschavez. (COURTESY PHOTO BY MAILEI BUMANGLAG)</p>

Honokaa High and Intermediate School’s “Million Dollar Babies” include: Yvonne Daniels, Cortney Oshiro, Darus Ignacio, Mindy Silva, Amanda Agdeppa, Darienne Hannum, Rodel Lacanlale, Daisha Acorda, Gabriel Ramirez, Kelly Greenwell, Jovi Valencia, Sherma Ambida, Keanu Freitas, Serena Offenbaker, Angelo Gonzales, Yvonne Nitura, Eric Fune, Monica Carlos, Valentino Quijano-Moeckel, Pedro Sanchez. Not shown, Maiya Kauhi, Shawn Garcia, Keana Kaohimaunu, Mitchell Eschavez. (COURTESY PHOTO BY MAILEI BUMANGLAG)

Class of 2013 Honokaa High and Intermediate School graduates received their diplomas in May, and many will be able to kick start their college careers with a strong financial foundation, thanks to various scholarships, community support and the HHIS College and Career Center.

Altogether, 25 exceptional students have won 35 different awards, from $250 to $200,000 and up—approaching a million dollars’ worth—to attend schools in Oregon, Colorado, Washington State, Nevada, Ohio and Massachusetts, and Hawaii.

Among the top achievers is valedictorian Amanda Agdeppa, 18, who received both a Presidential Scholarship and a Vex Robotics Scholarship, to attend Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. Agdeppa will study engineering, robotics, and biomedical science, with a career goal in the field of prosthetics, including robotic prosthetics.

“In the eighth grade I started robotics,” said Agdeppa. “My math teacher, Michael Yoshida, assigned me to be the programmer, so I got to tell the robots what to do,” she said. “We use a computer to create autonomous codes, without human involvement.”

That means, with a series of “conditional” controls, robots can perform some tasks without directions from an operator.

Robotics has been more than a hobby for Agdeppa, who traveled with the robotics team to numerous state and two world competitions, in Dallas, Texas, and Disneyworld in Florida. Her favorite is the Pan Pacific competition Hawaii Convention Center on Oahu, where more than 120 teams compete.

When Agdeppa was in the ninth grade, she was inspired by a visit to the University of Washington and its state-of-the-art Human Motion Analysis Laboratory, where advanced research is being done on biomechanics, robotic prosthetic limbs, and much more.

“I always wanted to help people, and didn’t see robotics as a way to help people till I went to UW,” she said.

Agdeppa, who is an accomplished pianist as well, played “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Hawaii Pono‘i” at the HHIS graduation. Also a bit of a poet, Agdeppa presented part of her graduation speech in verse:

“You’ve lived through the end of the world at least five times since birth/Plus three tsunamis and a four-hour lockdown—I’m surprised we’re still on this Earth/And though we’ve lost some precious friends along with way/They’re still with us at the end of this remarkable journey today.”

Serena Offenbaker, 17, is another HHIS grad with major plans. She’s preparing to attend Reed College in Portland Oregon on a full four-year scholarship, where she will study English and writing.

“Her second grade class published a book,” said proud mom Evelyn Offenbaker. “She was always very serious about school … We had to make her go out and play, take a walk, ride her bike.”

Serena is senior class president and works part time at the Honokaa Peoples Theatre. She has served as student ambassador to Europe representing Hawaii, and started Honokaa’s first drama club.

“She sees a need and she does it,” said Evelyn. “She wants to help people.”

“I like to write editorial things,” said Serena. “And also poetry, sometimes short stories. I like academic writing, essays, narratives. Things I can add a twist to.” As for a writing career, she says, “I will see where it takes me, maybe pursue a PhD, and see how I develop as a writer.”

Important scholarships were also earned by Valentino Quijano-Moeckel, who will attend Pacific Northwest College of Arts in Colorado, and Gabriel Ramirez, who will attend Oregon State University. Ramirez also won a Honolulu Star Advertiser Citizenship Award.

Talented cross-country runner and soccer standout, Kelly Greenwell, received a substantial award to attend Ft. Lewis College, and Yvonne Daniels and Monica Carlos won significant athletic scholarships — Daniels to Southwest Oregon Community College and Carlos to Colorado Mesa University.

“Diverse and talented, that’s how I’d describe them—whether it’s in music, academics, athletics or other areas—and hardworking,” said Principal Glenn Gray regarding the Class of 2013. “Coming from a small place like Honokaa, it takes perseverance to do the things they do: musical performances at the state capitol, state champions in soccer, and so many other accomplishments,” he said.

“We have 127 graduates this year, and I am extremely proud of every single one,” said Gray.