The Class of 2023 took part in a beautiful Baccalaureate ceremony on Sunday, May 28. Royshelle Trixie Agngarayngay ’23, Maya Barnabas ’23 and Nathaniel Ryan-Kern ’23 delivered thought-provoking speeches to their classmates. The students also heard from Chaplain George Scott, who shared uplifting words: “Our hearts are open to receive all of the goodness that surrounds us in this hour,” he said. “Mahalo ke Akua for the joy of human love.”
In true buff ’n blue fashion, this academic year culminated with the cherished year-end celebrations that our community knows and loves, including May Day, Holokū, Baccalaureate, Commencement and Alumni Week.
For its part, the Class of 2032 rejoiced in its third grade lū‘au with a rousing new oli, “Pūpūkahi i ke Aloha,” which translates to “United in Love.” Written by Kumu Emma McGuire ’93, this original piece was inspired by the children of Kapunahou. “United in Love is one of the feelings the students expressed because this celebration brings everyone together – in love,” McGuire says. “And because of this love and respect for one another and the ways of our kūpuna, people work hard in unison for a common purpose.”
This galvanizing sentiment was palpable not only at the third grade lū‘au but also throughout all of Punahou’s year-end festivities, which are featured in this section of the Punahou Bulletin.
United in Love was evident in smiling faces, in graceful hula moves and in the hours of talking story with old friends during Alumni Week. It was expressed when kindergarteners sang for animated spectators at the gym and when our senior class lovingly presented lei to family members at Commencement.
As we reflect on the many milestones of this remarkable year – from academics to athletics to the arts – it is important to recognize that our greatest achievements came to bear because the community rallied toward common goals. Everyone, it seems, worked together to make this year a memorable one.
As we prepare for an exciting 2023 – 2024 academic year ahead, we hope that the spirit of being United in Love continues to permeate throughout our community, because together, we can accomplish anything.
The theme for the K – 5 May Day celebration was “Ku‘u Kulāiwi Aloha,” My Beloved Homeland, which is a nod to the collective experience that we share by living on this majestic land. The program paid tribute to Hawai‘i by showcasing some of the mo‘olelo (stories), songs and compositions about our homeland – a place of unparalleled beauty and our greatest connection to each other.
Ancient Hawaiians believed Kūlanihāko‘i to be a mythical pond in the sky and the source of rain on earth. In mo‘olelo (stories) passed down from ancestors, it was said that when Kūlanihāko‘i swelled, the wai overflowed upon the ‘āina providing sustenance for sprouts to cultivate.
The Holokū Pageant and Case Middle School May Day program paid homage to the life-giving waters of Kāne, which our community encounters in a multitude of ways; from where the sun rises in the east to where the sun sets in the west. The theme this year – “He Wai Nō” (“there is water here”) – was brought to life with vibrant performances and songs around this poetic topic.
The students played traditional Hawaiian games during the third grade lū‘au. In addition, they enjoyed dynamic activities, such as harvesting sweet potatoes, ‘uala, savoring fresh coconut milk and prepping an imu.
Photo by Kathleen Connelly
A Mat that Seats Many
The Class of 2032 shared sumptuous traditional Hawaiian delicacies, including savory kālua pig and haupia made from coconut.
An Epic Moment
Third grade students spend the entire academic year taking a deep dive into Hawaiian history and culture. Some of the key learning objectives focus on coming together for a shared goal or purpose and discovering important values around community and ‘ohana. This rich experience culminates in a lively lū‘au celebration with a stirring opening ceremony on Scott Field.
The Class of 2023 received diplomas during a moving Commencement ceremony at the Stan Sheriff Center on June 3. The event was filled with many poignant moments, including a special performance of “Mele Wehe,” or Song of Admission, by Ke‘alohi Reppun ’99, director of the Kuaihelani Center for ‘Ike Hawai‘i.
The program then transitioned into full gear with a hymn, three stellar student speeches and a Class song. Junior School Principal Todd Chow-Hoy presented a charming speech that took the seniors down memory lane. “Dear Class of 2023, it is an honor to have this brief moment with thee,” he said. “To take you all back to a much simpler time, when life was carefree and joyful, and often full of rhyme.”
In his inaugural Commencement address, Academy Principal Gustavo Carrera celebrated the Class of 2023. “We are immensely proud of you,” he said.
Carrera then unveiled an adjective that best describes the graduating class: Caring. It is a Punahou tradition that dates back to 1968.
“Caring is a virtue that fosters positive relationships and creates community,” he said. “Caring comes in ways small and large: it can be seen when walking across the quad in how the students greet each other and relate to their teachers, just as it was seen when the students came together to keep Punahou safe and thriving through a global pandemic.”
During Carrera’s presentation of the Caring Class of 2023 to President Mike Latham ’86, he highlighted its many accomplishments. “The students before you tonight constitute less than 4% of the 2023 high school graduates in our state. Yet they account for an impressive 37% of the state’s semifinalists of the National Merit Scholar competition and 30% of the semifinalists in the Presidential Scholar Award,” he said.
“Outside of academics, seniors led their teams in half of the state title championship matches, bringing home 16 Koa trophies in 32 state championship competitions, as well as 20 out of 54 ILH championships.”
President Latham then delivered a rousing farewell speech to the Class, see page 2. The evening concluded with a benediction by Chaplain Lauren Medeiros, her final address to the Class before retiring after almost 30 years at Punahou. “The Caring Class of 2023: As you step toward the stars; as you acknowledge that Punahou is the People; as you build bridges and find freedom to be just who you are,” she said. “May the joy of catching tadpoles in the Lily Pond go with you. May the grace and mystery of the night-blooming cereus go with you. May the peace of a shimmering Mānoa rainbow go with you.”
Above: Students were all smiles as they walked toward loved ones to distribute white orchid lei as an expression of love and gratitude.
Center: Ke‘alohi Reppun ’99 made her Commencement debut with a powerful mele wehe.
Below: Academy Principal Gustavo Carrera delivered his inaugural Commencement address to the Caring Class of 2023.
The Commencement ceremony showcased live music, joyous singing and a spirited hula from the seniors. The Caring Class of 2023 has a lot to be proud of, including 16 Koa trophies in 32 state championship competitions, as well as 20 out of 54 ILH championships. On the academic front, they constitute less than 4% of the 2023 high school graduates in Hawai‘i, yet account for 37% of the state’s semifinalists of the National Merit Scholar competition and 30% of the semifinalists in the Presidential Scholar Award.
Chloe Yoshiki ’23
“Stepping Toward the Stars”
“The waters of Kapunahou have nourished us, and now it is time for us to leave our home at Punahou and find our place in the world. It is time for us to embrace our kuleana to change our home for the better, whether home is here in Hawai‘i, all of planet Earth, or someplace beyond. Let us now ‘turn our steps toward the stars.’”
Sophia Espinoza ’23
“We Are Punahou”
“We will always be Punahou. With every triumph and every failure, we carry the Punahou name and Punahou strength. We have the gift of choosing what we wield with this power – I look forward to seeing each of you use this gift for good.”
Ezra Levinson ’23
“It doesn’t matter why we want to build bridges. It truly doesn’t. Business and beauty, the old and the young, tradition and change – we can cross all these divides if we want to. We can be tolerant in our disagreements, we can embrace and affirm our differences … if we want to. It doesn’t matter why we want to build bridges – as long as we want to build them.”