From left, Grovers Kylee Ann Holland, Brendan Foster and Kulia Cabrera Кuke perform during the Small World Preschool graduation ceremony on June 14. (COURTESY PHOTO)
Small World Preschool students Shermaine Yamasaki, Tiareotahiti Mo’o, and Olena Horn dance at graduation. (COURTESY PHOTO)
From left, Big Birds Kaylie Hirayama, Kaylie Yamasaki, and Kaiea Hudgins sing at the graduation ceremony at Small World Preschool. (COURTESY PHOTO)
Students with ties to the first preschool class 32 years ago led the Small World Preschool graduation ceremony. From left, Kaylie Hirayama, Kaylie Yamasaki, Kaiea Hudgins, Graiden Kainoa, Emalia Keakealani, Sierra Sylva, Nikaiya Bergan, and Joseph Richards. (COURTESY PHOTO)
It was 32 years ago, when Small World Preschool first opened its doors to students. And on June 14, a group of eight students with parents, aunties and uncles in the original class — Sierra Sylva, Kaylie Yamasaki, Emalia Keakealani, Nikaiya Bergan, Graiden Kainoa, Kaylie Hirayama, Kaiea Hudgins, and Joseph Richards – led the way for the Small World Preschool graduation ceremony.
The group marched through the center aisle of the building-sized tent containing about 250 people, past a table holding a framed photo of the original class from 1981. Despite the misty and windy weather, the students greeted the audience and performed a song.
“It has just been such a wonderful journey, and we met so many wonderful people,” said Pier Schutte, one of the original educators who established the school.
Schutte, known only by “Miss Pier” to students and family, said that when the school first started, things were much quieter in Waimea, and you could ride your horse on the road. She said that many of the children came from paniolo families and had relatives inducted in the newly established Paniolo Hall of Fame wall in the Waimea Community Center.
“We thank you for having the opportunity to have your children,” said Schutte. “Each child who walks in the door is an individual.”
Schutte said that all alumni are welcome back, and can join in for coffee from 7 to 8:30 a.m. and snack time between 2 and 2:30 p.m. Small World staff includes: Barbara Ozaki, who is also one of the original teachers, Natlee Oshiro, Val Higashi, Vicky Batin, Brandi Guzman, Denise Baptista and, Maua Puhi, who is a former Small World Preschool student.
During the ceremony, students in each of the three levels – Little Foots for the youngest grade, Grovers for the middle grade, and Big Birds for the oldest students – performed for the audience, dancing and singing a mix of both Hawaiian songs and preschool favorites.
After, each student from all three grades was called up on stage and presented with a diploma and gift made by each of the teachers. “Miss Natlee” Oshiro, “Big Bird” lead teacher, with the help of “Miss Maua” Puhi and “Miss Val” Higashi, made each of the graduating students a Small World Preschool Memory Book of photos she complied throughout the year of the student at play, combined with their artwork and the student’s written work throughout the year. “Miss” Brandi” Guzman, “Miss Vicky” Batin, and “Miss Denise” Baptista created DVDs of their Small World Preschool Memory Book.
Following the ceremony was a family-style luncheon prepared by former teacher DeDe Mitsuka and Laura Auna, with help from teachers Barbara Ozaki and Schutte and other staff members, for more than 250 guests. The fare included sweet and sour pork, char siu chicken, gon lo mein noodle dish, chicken katsu, Korean chicken, potato mac salad, fruit salad, namasu, tomatoes over tossed greens with feta cheese and balsamic dressing, rice, and the school’s famous punch, supplemented by desserts provided by the parents.
“You would not believe what it takes,” Schutte said of preparing for the celebration and meal. “Great teachers and former co-workers still volunteer their time.”
Small World Preschool is now taking applications for the upcoming school year, and they have needs-based scholarships available for students. For more information, contact the school at 885-4388.