Pacific Media Group Celebrates Shining Seniors
Distinguished students from around the island gathered on Saturday at Nani Maui Gardens in Hilo for Pacific Media Group’s 33rd Annual Salute to the Graduates luncheon.
Read below for full vignettes on the students celebrated and their achievements in and out of the classroom. The students are listed by the category they were nominated for.
To lean more about PMG’s Salute to the Graduates 2016 program, click here.
A full audio version of the vignettes, ready for download, can be heard and access by clicking here.
2016 Graduate Honorees
Parker School’s valedictorian and scholastics nominee is Sarah Bellatti. Sarah is the president of the National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society. She won the Wellesley College Book Award for outstanding academics and leadership, and has won academic medals and awards in chemistry, AP English, honors biology, and math. She will continue her education at a school of her choosing.
Ku’uipo Bettencourt is Konawaena High School’s scholastics nominee. Ku’uipo is a volunteer at Ke Kai Ola, the monk seal hospital located at NELHA. She is also a member of Hua O Ke’au, which teaches Hawaiian traditions. Additionally, she has taken a number of Advanced Placement classes and won the AP scholar award in 2015. Ku’uipo will attend Smith College with the hopes of becoming a veterinary technician.
Kea’au High School’s scholastics nominee is Marson Cabay. This honor roll student has maintained a grade point average of a 4.0. He is also the president of his school’s national honor society, treasurer of the Puna Taiko Club, and a member of the band booster program. Marson is described as someone who pursues his goals with determination and endurance. He will attend the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, where he will major in Business Management.
Deisha Gascon, Ka’u High School’s scholastics nominee, does it all. She has been one of the top students academically in her class, earning her status in the National Honor Society. She has also made it to the state science fair competition. In the community, she has participated in food drives and helped to feed the homeless. Deisha has enlisted in the United States Army with the goal of becoming a Medical Laboratory Specialist.
A headmaster’s list and Principal’s list student at Kamehameha-Hawai’i is Iliana Godoy, the Warriors’ scholastics nominee. Godoy is ranked in the top 1 percent of her graduating class, and has still found time to volunteer over 1,200 hours as a tutor and childcare provider at the Kamaaina Kids afterschool program. She will attend Dartmouth College, where she will major in Political Science.
Pahoa High and Intermediate School’s scholastics nominee is Kobe Miller. Kobe is the vice president of his school’s National Honor Society and the Co-Vice President of the SBG Executive Council. He is also the Vice President of the STEM club. He also assisted in fundraising for the Cancer Foundation. This diligent and witty student will attend Vanderbilt University, majoring in Economics.
An outstanding student in science and robotics at Kealakehe High School is Sarah Mumbert, the Waveriders’ scholastics nominee. Sarah won first place in the Science Fair in the Systems Software Division. She also participates in the Science Bowl as her team’s captain, and has won the Life Mentor Service Award. This Sarah Rosenberg Scholarship for Academics winner will attend Williams College to major in Microbiology.
With a GPA of 4.15, Hilo High School’s Karyana Norris has proven she can take care of business in the classroom. The Vikings’ scholastics nominee has taken 6 AP courses and has won department awards in English, Math, Science, Social Studies, World Languages, and Career Technical Education. She also participates on Hilo’s swim and water polo teams. She will major in pre-med at a school of her choice.
One of 13 valedictorians in this year’s senior class at Waiakea High School is Kylan Sakata, the Warriors’ scholastics nominee. Kylan is a academic honor award winner who is the current president of the math league and vice president of the interact club. He has earned Foodland’s Shop for Higher Education Scholarship, and will attend Stanford University, where he will major in physics.
This year’s National Honor Society President at Honoka’a High School is Joshua Salazar, the Dragons’ scholastics nominee. Joshua has held leadership positions with the Robotics Club, his class, and as a Student Community Council representative. He is known to spend extensive amounts of hours volunteering in the school and community. He will attend San Jose State University to major in Entrepreneurship.
Makua Lani Christian Academy’s Valedictorian is Sophia Whalen, the school’s academics nominee. Sophia is a four sport standout at Makua Lani who also finds time to serve as the student body vice president and secretary. She has earned the AP History Award, Outstanding Achievement Award in Art, and the Distinguished High School Student Award. She will attend the University of Hawai’i at Manoa on a Chancellor’s Scholarship for the Academy of Creative Media program.
Will White is Hawai’i Preparatory Academy’s scholastics nominee. Will has excelled in multiple classes, earning AP awards in statistics and art history, as well as the Jay Wilder Award for excellence in History. This year’s Student Body President also earned a Washington Post internship. He earned a $2,500 National Merit Award and will use that as he attends Stanford University.
Richard Chai is Kealakehe High School’s leadership nominee. Richard is the secretary of the school’s student body government and National Honor Society President and Secretary. He is also the captain of the Judo team, where he was named most inspirational and most improved. He received the Foodland Shop for Higher Education Scholarship and will attend Pensacola Christian College, majoring in mechanical engineering.
Savannah Cochran is no stranger to the Dean’s List. Hawai’i Preparatory Academy’s leadership nominee has made the distinguished list every year since she was a freshman. She is a student ambassador, student council representative, and club secretary for HPA’s Red Cross unit. Savannah will attend Dartmouth College, where she will major in Physics Engineering, thanks to a Dartmouth Scholarship.
Sheila Mae Felipe is Ka’u High School’s leadership nominee. Described as a self-motivated, responsible, and a community contributor, Sheila has involved herself in a number of clubs and organizations, including the American Red Cross and the Health Occupation Students of America, where she is the vice president. She is also the secretary of her senior class and president and secretary of the National Honor Society.
Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School’s leadership nominee is Keziah Jabilona. Keziah has won her school’s student of the month award and Good Citizenship award. Advisors describe her as kind, outgoing, considerate, caring, and respectful. Keziah will attend Hawai’i Community College, where she will continue her education with a major yet to be determined.
Pahoa High and Intermediate School’s leadership nominee is Gernel Javier. Gernel is the president of the National Honor Society, executive president of the Student Body Government, and treasurer of the Hawaii State Future Farmers of America. She also won multiple awards at the FFA State Conference and was first place at the Soil and Water Conservation State Contest. She will attend the University of Hawaii at Hilo, majoring in astronomy.
Kamehameha-Hawai’i’s leadership nominee is Kaluhikaua Kaapana. This principal’s list student has earned a 3.5 GPA every semester since her freshman year. She is a fixture around campus on weekdays and weekends, serving as the student body vice president. Kaluhikaua is also a Tahitian dancer, something she has done since she was 7. She will attend the University of Hawai’i with hopes of becoming an Elementary School teacher.
A natural born leader is Kyleigh-Ann Keolanui, Honoka’a High School’s leadership nominee. Kyleigh-Ann has been involved in some form of leadership since the sixth grade, and has served as this year’s student body president. Those around her call her a true servant leader with strong character who leads by example. She will attend Central Arizona College to pursue a degree in travel industry management.
Konawaena High School’s student body president and class historian is Daylon Ogata, the Wildcats’ leadership nominee. Daylon is a state student council representative and conference facilitator, and has represented the school on the Big Island Association of Student Councils. He will attend Utah Valley University, where he will major in Educational Leadership and Administration.
Kea’au High School’s leadership nominee is Pomaikai Oli-Sanchez. Pomaikai is on the Shipman Board of Directors as its student community representative. He has also won awards in Culinary Arts and Public Speaking and has represented Kea’au in competitions held in Texas and Washington D.C. Pomaikai hopes to become a police officer. He will attend Hawai’i Community College or the United States Military upon graduation.
Jasmine Smeraglia is described as a great leader, hard worker, and giving volunteer. Hilo High School’s leadership nominee is also their student government president and has served as a class or student government officer all four years of high school. She was also the captain of the Vikings’ BIIF championship soccer team. Jasmine has earned a Hawai’i Rotary Youth Foundation scholarship. She will attend Concordia University.
Waiakea High School’s student body president is Jodie Tokihiro, the Warriors’ leadership nominee. Jodie has earned academic and service awards every year in high school, and has been a member of the National Honor Society. She also earned the Special Olympics Volunteer award. Jodie has earned the Chancellor’s and Centennial Scholarships at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, where she plans to major in Chemistry.
Literary or Performing Arts
Ana Bitter is Waiakea High School’s literary and performing arts nominee. Ana is a two-time state winner of the DAR Essay Contest and also took first place in the Clarence T.C. Ching Essay Contes. She is a four-year Scholastic Achievement Award winner and also attended the Japan Super Science Fair. Ana will attend the University of Hawaii at Manoa on a Regents’ Scholarship, where she will major in Graphic Design and Linguistics.
The founder of Konawaena High School’s Anime Club is Celeste Brown, the Wildcats’ literary or performing arts nominee. Celeste is the president of her school’s drama club, winner of the award of excellence in video production, and was a presenter at the popular HawaiiCon. This confident, creative, and passionate student plans to pursue performing arts and expand on her creativity at a school of her choice.
Kamehameha-Hawai’i’s Drum major, musician, and actor is Thane-Maiko “Pono” Brown, the Warriors’ literary or performing arts nominee. Brown has starred in Wizard of Oz, South Pacific, Fiddler on the Roof, and West Side Story. He was also featured in last year’s Ho’ike musical performance. A student with the motor of an Energizer Bunny, Brown will major in English at a school of his choosing.
Parker School’s salutatorian and literary or performing arts nominee is Savannah Harriman-Pote. Savannah is a Student Ambassador for the Ohana Foundation, a National Merit Commended Scholar, and winner of the Mana’olana Debate Scholarship. She is also the vice president of the National Honor Society and student body president. She will continue her education at a school of her choosing.
Iris McPherson, Hilo High School’s literary or performing arts nominee, is an active performer in community theater. She has performed in Hilo High’s performing arts learning center, with the Hilo Community Players, and at the Palace Theater. She also participates in Hilo’s Gay Straight Alliance and the Japan Club. This Church of Holy Apostles Acolyte Scholarship winner will major in playwriting and anthropology at Smith College.
Pahoa High and Intermediate School’s literary or performing arts nominee is Jesus Mendoza. Jesus is part of the Hawaii Meth Project. He is also president of the STEM club, treasurer of the Future Farmers of America, and treasurer of the National Honor Society, where he was inducted in the 10th grade. He will attend Virginia Tech University, majoring in architecture.
Hawai’i Preparatory Academy’s Christine Ocheltree is the school’s literary or performing arts nominee. Christine has taken the lead in several school productions, including “Lost in Yonkers” and “Singing in the Rain.” She was also one of the winners of the Big Island’s Got Talent competition. She will be attending Syracuse University, thanks in part to a Chancellor’s Scholarship, majoring in Biotechnology and Forensic Science.
An accomplished musician at Kea’au High School is Phillip Palmore, the Cougars’ literary or performing arts nominee. Palmore has earned a position in the Hawaii County Band and has won four solo and ensemble competitions. This French horn player has also played with the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra and the Kona Choral Society. He will attend the University of Denver on a citizen-scholar award, majoring in musical performance.
Kamea Phenecie is Honoka’a High School’s literary or performing arts nominee. She was the lead tenor saxophone player for the accomplished Honokaa High School Jazz Band, marched in the 2014 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California with the Hawai’i All-State Marching Band, and has released two albums on iTunes. She will attend Brigham Young University to major in Music Composition.
Tom Clemen Rafanan is Kealakehe High School’s literary or performing arts nominee. Tom was the winner of the school’s Performing Arts Award and is also a Chess Club champion. He is the President of this year’s senior class and President of the Chess Club, as well as a member of the National Honor Society. Tom will attend the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, majoring in psychology and minoring in education.
Ka’u High School’s literary or performing arts nominee is Ka’iminani Rapoza. Ka’iminani started a gardening program with the Boys and Girls Club of Pahala, in partnership with the County of Hawai’i Department of Parks and Recreation. She also wrote a bill that was passed by the Youth Governor on ending the rape culture on college campuses. Ka’iminani will study Liberal Arts at Hawai’i Community College.
Ka’u High School’s information technology nominee is Gissele Corpuz, who aspires to be a future journalist. Gissele has been a part of the River of Life: Assembly of God Church’s Worship team for the last year and a half. She is described as astute and adept, positive, and independent. She will major in liberal arts at Hawai’i Community College before taking her next steps in chasing her journalism dreams.
Lucas DeRego is Kamehameha-Hawai’i’s information technology nominee. He and three others in team “Hoku” won a challenge at the 2015 Microsoft Imagine Cup and were honored at the State Capitol for their win in the games category at the Microsoft Imagine Cup Pitch Video Challenge. Lucas has also participated in Cross Country and Track and Field. He will major in Computer Science at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo.
Coral McKeon is Konawaena High School’s information technology nominee. Coral has been recognized as an outstanding student in the CISCO technology class. He is also a tech assistant to Konawaena’s tech coordinator. People around him describe Coral as an incredibly advanced student in computer science. He plans to join the Air National Guard after graduation and major in cyber assurance.
Waiakea High School’s cyber patriot is Olivia Murray, the Warriors’ information technology nominee. Olivia has been recognized by the Zonta Club of Hilo for her achievements. She is the president of the Robotics Club, vice president of the Dance Club, and member of the interact club. Olivia will attend the University of Hawai’i at Manoa with the help of a Chancellor’s Scholarship. She plans to double major in mathematics and computer science.
Mary Noble is Pahoa High and Intermediate School’s information technology nominee. Mary participates in the Future Farmers of America, where she won first place in both regional and state interviews. She will now move up to the national level in Indianapolis. She also participates in the National Honor Society and Robotics. She will attend Hawai’i Pacific University, where she will major in biomedical engineering.
Hawai’i Preparatory Academy’s information technology nominee is Chris Rowe. Known as an effective team member and mentor, Chris has earned eight different distinctions for Caribbean-wide exams. He is the recipient of the Ho’omau Ka Na’auao Scholarship and has been awarded a full scholarship to Trinity College. That is where he will major in Computer Science and Engineering.
St. Joseph School’s information technology nominee is Jonathan Uhlmann. Jonathan’s senior project was based on developing a product that would allow older adults in wheelchairs to exercise and strengthen their muscles, similar to physical therapy. He is the class vice president and member of the Youth Ministry. This winner of the Rebecca Marie Forbes Memorial Scholarship Award will attend the University of Illinois at Chicago, majoring in computer science.
A member of Hilo High School’s robotics club is the Vikings’ information technology nominee. Hua Uehara is the president of the Robotics Club, as well as the Math League team. While he has kept busy in several of these clubs, he has also taken care of his school work, earning a GPA of 4.09. Hua will head to a school of his choice, where he plans to major in engineering.
An All-Big Island Interscholastic Federation soccer selection at Makua Lani Christian Academy is Kalani Alapai, the school’s athletics nominee. Kalani was named to the All-BIIF first team in soccer, where he was the team captain, and was also the MVP of the Makua Lani golf team. He has made it on the honor roll all four years. He will use a Director’s Scholarship to attend Azusa Pacific University, where he will major in Graphic Design.
Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School’s athletics nominee is Alize Asato. Alize has been the team captain of the Seasiders’ volleyball team for the last two seasons. She is also the student body vice president. Teachers describe Alize as hard working, a team player, and concerned about the success of others and her school. She will study liberal arts at a college of her choosing.
This year’s All-BIIF honorable mention selection in boys basketball is Hilo High School’s Athletics nominee. Joshua Breitbarth has lettered for four years in cross country and baseball, and has started the last two years in varsity basketball. He is described as a team player who always puts a smile on other people’s faces. He will major in Kinesiology and Exercise Science at a school of his choosing.
A three-sport standout at Kealakehe High School is Blaine Broberg, the Waveriders’ athletics nominee. Broberg has lettered at the varsity level in basketball, football, and volleyball. Outside of athletics, he is a lifeplan youth member and interact club member. This intelligent, dependable, and personable student-athlete will pursue a degree in mechanical engineering at a school of his choosing.
The Captain of the Honoka’a High School Boys Basketball team is Jonathan Charbonneau, the Dragons’ athletics nominee. Charbonneau made it to the All-BIIF second team in Division II boys basketball this season. He also was named to the Honorable Mention list for the All-BIIF Division II football team, Jonathan plans to become an athletic trainer and will further his education at a California Junior college.
The Big Island Interscholastic Federation’s Division II Boys Basketball Player of the Year is Cole DeSilva, Saint Joseph School’s Athletics nominee. DeSilva helped the Cardinals earn the BIIF championship this year and earn a spot in the state tournament. Cole is also the student council secretary and valedictorian of his class. He will continue his education at a school of his choosing.
One of the top defensive backs in the state and the BIIF’s Defensive Player of the Year in football is Konawaena’s athletics nominee. Cameron Howes earned all-state recognition from USA Today, KHON2, ScoringLive.com, and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. He also was recognized as a 1st-team selection at the Wide Receiver and Punter positions. He will attend Butte College to continue his football career while majoring in Liberal Arts.
Keian Kanetani is Kea’au High School’s athletics nominee. Kanetani was named the BIIF Division I Player of the Year in baseball in 2015. In the classroom, he has earned a 4.0 GPA. Keian is active in the Civics club and interact club, and is a class representative. He will attend Pacific University on a Presidential Award and other scholarships. He will major in physics.
A statewide standout and team captain in 8-man football is Ka’u High School’s Athletics nominee. Evan Manoha was named All-BIIF Offensive Player of the Year this past season, while maintaining a 3.65 grade point average. He is also the senior class president. Manoha looks to remain competitive in college rodeo at Walla Walla College, where he will major in automotive mechanics.
A member of Pahoa High and Intermediate School’s basketball and volleyball teams is Kilinahe Oliveira, the Daggers’ athletics nominee. Kili was named to the All-BIIF second team the last two seasons in boys basketball and honorable mention in 2015 in boys volleyball. He is described as confident and well mannered and very likely to succeed in life. He will attend the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, majoring in Kinesiology.
Waiakea High School’s athletics nominee is Louie Ondo. Louie is a three-sport standout at Waiakea, participating in track and field, cross country, and basketball. He was the MVP of his cross country team last season, and was also this year’s champion in the Boys 800 meter run at the Island Movers State Track and Field championships. Louie is planning to attend Lewis-Clark State College, where he will major In Fire Service Technology.