“She’s incredibly intelligent, she absorbs information really quickly and is able to process that information, anylizes it, and delivers on it,” says Nick Ernst, who is the Speech Teacher at Kamehameha Schools Kapālama as he explains his outsanding student, Kawena Hirayama. “I was able to observe this as her debate coach and her speech teacher.”
“She is quite a corky character. Unassuming to every end of the word. She’s incredibly humble. You’d never think, oh this girl is clearly the smartest person in her class, she’s clearly has the highest GPA, because she’s so- she’s incredibly personable, just a great character overall,” Mr. Ernst continues.
Kawena is valedictorian of her 2015 graduating class and her great character has been noticed beyond her peers and teachers at Kamehameha Schools Kapālama. She was recently recognized as one of our nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors – a 2015 U.S. Presidential Scholar.
“I was kind of just shocked when I got it because I wasn’t- even when I was applying I didn’t really expect to get it, so I think that I was just more shocked than anything else,” says Kawena Hirayama humbly.
“There’s a humility to her that is kind of unique,” says her Physics Teacher at Kamehameha Schools Kapālama, Darren Kamalu. “Her abilities don’t walk in front of her to knock you down, she keeps them all contained in a very humble way.”
“I wrote her application and she’s one of the difficult students because you know, the thing that stands out about her is that there are no issues. She comes in, she does her work, she gets it done on time, she has a good handle over what her actual capabilities are, she knows exactly what to schedule and what time. It’s kind of unique,” Mr. Kamalu continues.
Kawena has proven her time management skills through excelling in her accademics while also pursuing extra curricular activities.
“I kind of impulse join clubs. I joined the speech and debate, I’m the co-president for Kids for Kids, it’s a volunteering club. We try to focus on friends and their families. I’m in National Honors Society, I’m also on the deputation team, and I’ve played water polo since the seventh grade and that was really good for me because it helped me to be more comfortable in my own skin,” says Kawena.
“I’m glad that Kawena has taken advantage of all of the different opportnities that we offer at Kamehameha but I do think that she herself is such an interesting character that she’s kind of made herself a wonderful person,” says Mr. Earnst.
Kawena is prepared to attend Stanford University in the fall of 2015. She plans to study Neuro Science and looks forward to continuing her adventure into the student life of building relationships and memorable experiences.
“Just knowing that I’m going to have those kinds of experiences at Stanford, where everybody is amazing in their own way, I really like having that perspective on life, that I’m not the best at everything and I’m probably not the best at anything actually, but it’s fun just knowing that all of these people will support me so that I can be better at the very least,” says Kawena.
“I think that she’s going to become actually, quite a significant player, not just in the Stanford community, but hopefully, and I believe she will be coming back and and paying back to the Kamehameha ʻohana and the Hawaiian community here, and the state of Hawaiʻi and I think we’ll see her back here as a very significant, powerful force there for good,” says Mr. Kamalu.
“I appreciate Kawena and how she’s able to challenge herself and then challenge me to be a better teacher,” says Mr. Earnst. “She’s taught me that when- even when students do come with an extraordinary amount of talent, they still want to be pushed, they still want to be challenged with a whole bunch of things, and I think that as a teacher, it is refreshing to see students who still thirst and crave for knowledge and the challenge.”
“I just llke showing people that you don’t have to be any one category, you could be as many categories as you want, and you can totally be more than you are at any point, like you’re never quite there- you’re never quite perfect, but that doesn’t mean that you should stop trying to be better,” says Kawena.