Red Raiders Go Out In (Safe) Style

Editor’s Note: A decade ago, few Hawaii high school seniors knew or experienced a ‘Project Grad.’ Today, the event is a familiar tradition in island schools. In the article below, the Kahuku Project Graduation committee shares its long-planned - and successful - overnighter that kept its celebrating graduates safe, sober and happy.

Kahuku High School seniors gather at Project Grad in the school gym. Photo from Kim Naeole.

It was a busy night on the North Shore May 31 as 278 Kahuku High School seniors were receiving hugs, kisses and lei from family and friends as they gathered at BYUH Cannon Activities Center after their graduation ceremonies. But the celebration was just beginning.

Since August 2006, the Project Grad committee, comprised of devoted parents, has been hard at work preparing for this annual celebration. The intention is not only to provide a safe celebration, but to know they can still have a good time without any drugs, alcohol or tobacco. The seniors kicked this off by signing a commitment contract during Senior Lock-In, promising to abstain from drugs and alcohol. They also watched a DVD from Mothers Against Drunk Driving that featured celebrities discussing the subject, and concluded with a music video showing how a decision to drink and drive can change the lives of those involved including their families and friends.

After final goodbyes, 221 of the graduates checked in and received their new “007 Mission Accomplished” duffel bags, filled with a T-shirt and goodies to make the evening fun. Donning their new shirts, they boarded five large tour buses and headed out under police escort. To add a special touch, the Hauula and Kaaawa fire stations flashed their lights and sounded their sirens as each bus passed.

First stop was Tiki Island at Kaneohe Marine base, where the new high school graduates enjoyed two miniature golf courses, water bumper boats and batting cages. Their next stop was Hard Rock Café in Waikiki. Dinner was delicious. The nail, tattoo, hair and make-up stations were available throughout the evening for the special guests to be treated like rock stars. Soon after, came non-stop laughter as hypnotist Greg Gabaylo put some fellow classmates under his spell. The “victims” imitated animals, rock stars, models and much more. An energetic dance followed with late night munchies of various desserts.

At 6 a.m., it was time to reboard the buses and head to Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park, kicked off by a light breakfast and the grand prize giveaway of a mini-van, donated by Mike McKenna’s Windward Ford. Lucie Wilson was the lucky winner. Graduates then ran from ride to ride having so much fun. Before we knew it, it was time for closing ceremonies. Tears streamed down faces as they formed their “Circle of Friends” (boys inside and girls outside), rotating and giving each graduate a hug goodbye. To end the celebration, the Kahuku football boys did their infamous “haka” chant with cameras flashing and cheers from their classmates.

The “007 Mission Accomplished” was “the bomb,” as some of the graduates declared. It would not have been possible if it weren’t for the donations and sponsorship of so many people and businesses. The Bobby Benson Center in Kahuku gave the Project Grad committee $2,000 to assist students who might need financial help. Because of this, 33 students were able to attend who otherwise might not have been able to. The Thomas and Blossom Kekaula Trust also donated $2,000 to help reduce event costs. These supporters - along with many, many others - enabled the Kahuku High School Class of 2007 to have an awesome and safe graduation night.

Mahalo to the Project Grad Committee, parents, students, volunteers, family, friends and businesses who donated countless hours of their time, services, goods and funds to help the students celebrate safely.

Project Grad Committee: chairwoman Kim Naeole, co-chair Mimo Pearl, secretary Leigh Ching, treasurer Michelle Fuluvaka, Delsa Moe (Activities), Herbert Naeole (Security), John Muaina (Donations/Grants), Ivona Mills (Incentives), Cussana Mapu (Registration), Yvette Yadao (School Contact), Luella Muaina (Publicity) and Marcella Ahue (Phone Tree).