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Commencement rites to star valedictorians

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There are plenty of standouts among the more than 14,000 Hawaii students graduating from public and private schools this year.

Twenty-seven of Mililani High’s 590 seniors have a 4.0 or higher grade-point average. Altogether the graduating class has snagged more than $6 million in scholarships.

Campbell High has nine valedictorians this year, and its seniors have been awarded more than $11.5 million in scholarships.

Kalani High, with a graduating class of 280 students, has 20 valedictorians, twice the number seen in previous years. All of them have a GPA above 4.0.

And at Kaiser High there are eight valedictorians. Among them, Kevin Hirata — GPA: 4.444 — is headed to Harvard in the fall. In his senior year Hirata was named a U.S. Presidential Scholar and chosen for the prestigious U.S. Senate Youth Program.

The valedictorian at Nanakuli High School is Stephanie Kalili, who wants to be a cardiologist because her family has a history of heart disease. Her grandfather died in his 40s after suffering a heart attack. Her parents are about that age now.

"It’s kind of a scary thing," she said.

Kalili was accepted to a long list of colleges but has narrowed it down to two: Creighton University in Nebraska and the University of Indianapolis, both of which offered her hefty scholarships. Her aim is to bring in enough award money so that her parents don’t have to worry about covering the costs of her higher education.

At Nanakuli’s graduation on Saturday, Kalili plans to deliver a "motivational, inspirational speech" to her peers, whom she’s grown to love since moving to Nanakuli from El Paso, Texas, in her freshman year. Kalili, the third of five children whose father recently retired from the Army, moved around a lot as a kid: Arizona, Washington, Texas. She found a home in Nanakuli, though, where her father grew up and attended the same school where she’ll be honored as the top student at this year’s graduation.

On the same day Nanakuli students will be graduating, Mid-Pacific Institute seniors will also be accepting their diplomas.

The school will recognize 42 "honor graduates," who have earned a 3.7 GPA or above and account for more than one-fourth of the graduating class of 195 students.

This year’s highest achiever is Rachel Roley, who has a seemingly impossible 4.6 GPA. She plans to study engineering at Harvey Mudd College, where she has secured a full ride.

Honolulu Waldorf School has a graduating class of just 15 this year, but together they’ve raked in more than $160,000 in scholarships.

And several have some interesting plans ahead: Hannah Lam will defer college for a year to volunteer to help adults with special needs. Julia DeHoff plans to travel to Sweden to volunteer on an organic apple farm before likely returning to her native Germany to attend medical school.

At its graduation June 4, ‘Iolani School will present awards for students who have excelled in athletics, made outstanding community service contributions and committed themselves to their faith. For another year ‘Iolani will also recognize "unsung heroes" — usually about a dozen students who might not be at the top of their class, but who have shown other exemplary attributes.

"They were the kids who were involved in every class community service project but who may not have led it," said Todd Fleming, ‘Iolani director of college counseling. "Students who … transcended high school cliques and who everyone respected."

Teachers at Waipahu High would probably name Mikel Garduque in their list of unsung heroes.

His academic record might not be impressive, and his GPA — 0.8 — is the result, he said, of "bad habits."

But look beyond his report card and you’ll find a teenager who saw dramatic growth in his last year in high school — through a lot of hard work.

Garduque was in danger of not getting his diploma when he enrolled in Waipahu High’s alternative learning center in the first quarter of his senior year. He made up 91⁄2 credits at the center for a host of classes, from math to English.

He also completed a senior project, raising $3,400 through a "juggle-athon" he organized for Operation Smile, a medical relief program that provides surgery for poor children with cleft lip or palate. The fundraiser jugglers were his soccer team buddies — more than 100 of them.

Garduque said it was a "very good feeling" to see how he could make a difference for kids in need.

It also feels good to know, he said, that his extra effort paid off — and that he’ll graduate Sunday with his peers at Waipahu High’s commencement ceremony.

His whole family will be there, cheering him on. "They’re really proud of me," he said. "They kind of thought of me as not the smartest person. They’re proud of me for catching up."

High school graduation dates

Below are the commencement ceremonies for regular public and private high schools as well as public charter schools. Information is also available at and


Academy of the Pacific: 5 p.m. May 27, campus

Aiea High School: 6 p.m. May 27, Blaisdell Arena

American Renaissance Academy: 5 p.m. May 29, campus

Assets School: 5 p.m. Saturday, Leeward Community College

Campbell High School: 6 p.m. Friday, Blaisdell Arena

Castle High School: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, athletic field

Damien Memorial School: 11 a.m. May 29, Blaisdell Concert Hall 

Education Laboratory School: 5:30 p.m. Friday, Andrews Amphitheater 

Farrington High School: 4 p.m. Saturday, school amphitheater

Friendship Christian Schools: 6 p.m. Saturday, FCS Youth Center Campus

Hakipuu Learning Center: 5 p.m. May 28, Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College

Halau Ku Mana: 10 a.m. June 4, campus

Halau Lokahi: 10:30 a.m. June 6, Iolani Palace

Hawaii Baptist Academy: 4 p.m. June 4, Blaisdell Concert Hall

Hawaii School for the Deaf and the Blind: 5:30 p.m. May 25, campus

Hawaii Technology Academy: 5:30 p.m. May 27; Pacific Beach Hotel

Hawaiian Mission Academy: 7:30 p.m. June 4, Blaisdell Concert Hall

Ho‘ala School: 2 p.m. June 4, auditorium

Honolulu Waldorf School: 3 p.m. June 5, Mamiya Theatre

‘Iolani School: 5 p.m. June 4, campu

Island Pacific Academy: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Lanikuhonua

Kahuku High School: 6 p.m. Thursday, BYUH Cannon Center

Kailua High School: 6 p.m. Saturday, campus

Kaimuki High School: 5 p.m., Saturday Waikiki Shell

Kaiser High School: 6 p.m. Friday, school stadium

Kalaheo High School: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Blaisdell Concert Hall

Kalani High School: 6:30 p.m. May 24, Blaisdell Arena

Kamehameha Schools: 7 p.m. May 29, Blaisdell Arena

Kapolei High School: 6 p.m. Friday, school stadium

Ke Kula Kaiapuni ‘o Anuenue: 10 a.m. Saturday, campus

Ke Kula o Samuel M. Kamakau: noon Saturday, school gym at Kokokahi YWCA

La Pietra-Hawaii School for Girls: 6 p.m. May 24, Great Lawn on campus

Lanakila Baptist High School: 7 p.m. May 27, Leeward CC Theatre

Le Jardin Academy: 6 p.m. May 27, gym

Leilehua High School: 6:30 p.m. Friday, school stadium

Lutheran High School: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dillingham Hall, Punahou School 

Maryknoll School: 5:30 p.m. June 3, Blaisdell Concert Hall

McKinley High School: 5 p.m. Sunday, campus

Mid-Pacific Institute: 5 p.m. Saturday, campus

Moanalua High School: 6 p.m. Friday, athletic field

Myron B. Thompson Academy: 6 p.m. Friday, Blaisdell Concert Hall

Nanakuli High School: 5 p.m. Saturday, school stadium

Olomana School: 10:30 a.m. Friday, campus

Pearl City High School: 5 p.m. Saturday, Blaisdell Arena

Punahou School: 8 p.m. June 4, Blaisdell Arena

Radford High School: 5 p.m. Sunday, Waikiki Shell

Roosevelt High School: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, school stadium

Sacred Hearts Academy: 3 p.m. May 28, Blaisdell Concert Hall

St. Andrew’s Priory School: 5 p.m. June 5, Cathedral Church of St. Andrew

Saint Francis School: 5 p.m. May 29, Koolau Grand Ballroom

Saint Louis School: 1:30 p.m. May 28, Blaisdell Aren

Waialua High School: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, athletic fiel

Waianae High School: 6 p.m. Friday, athletic field

Waipahu High School: 6 p.m. Sunday, Blaisdell Arena


Connections: 6 p.m. June 4, Civic Auditorium (Hilo)

Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences: 1 p.m. Friday, campus 

Hawaii Preparatory Academy: 10 a.m. Friday, Castle Gymnasium

Hilo High School: 7 p.m. Friday, Edith Kanakaole Stadium

Honokaa High School: 10 a.m. Saturday, campus

Hualalai Academy: 6 p.m. May 27, Bridge Building

Kamehameha Schools Hawai‘i: 4 p.m. May 28, Koai‘a Gym

Kanu o ka ‘Aina: 10 a.m. June 3, Kahilu Theater

Ka‘u High School: 5 p.m. Friday, gymnasium

Ke Ana La‘ahana: 5 p.m. May 28, Kawananakoa Hall

Ke Kula Ehunuikaimalino: noon Friday, Konawaena High gymnasium

Keaau High School: 4 p.m. Friday, school stadium

Kealakehe High School: 6 p.m. Saturday, school stadium

Kohala High School: 4 p.m. Saturday, Kamehameha Park

Konawaena High School: 9 a.m. Saturday, athletic field

Kua o ka La: 9 a.m. May 26, campus 

Laupahoehoe High School: 6 p.m. Friday, gymnasium

Makua Lani Christian School: 5 p.m. May 28, Ohana Court

Pahoa High School: 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Civic Auditorium (Hilo)

Parker School: 5 p.m. May 27, Kahilu Theatre

St. Joseph School: 4 p.m. May 27, Afook Chinen Civic Auditorium

Waiakea High School: 6 p.m. Saturday, Edith Kanakaole Stadium

West Hawaii Explorations Academy: 5 p.m. Friday, NELHA Gateway Building


Baldwin High School: 6 p.m. Friday, War Memorial Stadium

Hana High School: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, school field

Ho‘omana Hou School: 5 p.m. May 27, Kulana Oiwi

Horizons Academy: 11 a.m. June 1, campus

Ka‘ahumanu Hou Christian School: 6 p.m. Sunday, campus

Kamehameha Schools Maui: 2 p.m. May 28, Ka‘ulaheanuiaokamoku Gym

Kihei Public Charter School: 5 p.m. May 28, Wailea Marriott Kahoolawe Lawn

King Kekaulike High School: 6 p.m. Thursday, school stadium

Lahainaluna High School: 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Boarders’ Field

Lanai High School: 2 p.m. Saturday, gymnasium

Maui High School: 5 p.m. Saturday, War Memorial Stadium

Maui Preparatory Academy: 5:30 p.m. May 27, campus, lower lawn

Molokai High School: 4 p.m. Saturday, gymnasium

St. Anthony School: 6 p.m. May 27, St. Anthony Church Center

Seabury Hall: 10:30 a.m. May 28, campus


Island School: 5 p.m. June 11, Wilcox Gym

Kapaa High School: 6:30 p.m. Friday, Kapaa New Town Ball Park

Kauai Christian Academy: time TBA, June 3, campus

Kauai High School: 5:30 p.m. Friday, Vidinha Stadium

Kawaikini: noon Saturday, campus 

Waimea High School: 6:30 p.m. Friday, front lawn


Correction: All 20 of Kalani High’s valedictorians have 4.0 grade-point averages. An earlier version of this story said not all of them attained a 4.0

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