Our Disrupted Year

Maui’s graduating high school seniors share how COVID-19 has affected their final year of high school

Ghenesis Jhay Balaan and Romelyn Joy Tabangcura

Pomp and Circumstance. Walking across the stage in front of your screaming (and overjoyed) family and friends to pick up your diploma and shake the hand of your principal. A big smile for the photographers. And being lei’d all the way to your neck and in many cases, much higher so your family needs to hold on to the extra lei. Then a graduation party—whether an intimate one at the house, a restaurant or an extravagant one at Binhi at Ani or one of the community centers.

But for us, the Class of 2020, sadly it will not happen.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw to that. Spring break was extended; athletic activities and other extra-curricular activities were canceled. On-line classes were instituted and a decision was made that the grades through the 3rd quarter would be the final grades.

And the traditional graduation ceremonies were canceled—not even postponed. Instead, the Department of Education announced virtual graduation ceremonies, with the graduate riding in a car with family to accept their graduation certificate cover.

But it’s not the same.

The following first-person statements from our fellow graduating high school seniors from Maui share their thoughts and possible lifestyle changes during the stay at home period.

“Since I was young, I knew I wanted to attend a university after high school but I never knew what I would major in. Throughout high school, I have taken numerous health education classes which helped me towards my choice of major. After high school, I will be furthering my education at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. I will be studying to earn a Bachelor’s in Science in Nursing. With my education, I will be working towards becoming a registered nurse. Growing up in Hawai‘i, it has always been my dream to have a traditional graduation ceremony. Being able to be congratulated for the years of hard work is definitely a milestone every student should be able to experience. The ongoing pandemic not only stripped the class of 2020’s graduation and last quarter of high school but also all the memories that would have come with it. These last final months were meant to be enjoyed and full of love. Now, my class is left with what seems like nothing.” ShandiMarie Agpoon, Maui High School, daughter of Sanders Agpoon.

“Although COVID-19 is seen as a scary and negative thing, I myself as an individual prefer to look at the bright side of things and its positivity. Although it may have suspended our normal activities and canceled our plans that we may have been looking forward to, it hasn’t been all that bad. Even though it has taken away quite a few things from me, such as my senior night for volleyball, hanging out with friends, complaining and procrastinating about the remaining work to do in school during the remainder of my stay and most importantly, graduation. However, with it, I gained quite a few things. These include having quality time with my family although sometimes that can drive people crazy being cooped up like that but regardless I’m still grateful for it. Also being able to work during times like these where instead of asking my parents for money, I am able to buy most of my needs and the things I want therefore they can focus on paying bills and other needs. As for graduation, even though it saddens me that my class won’t be able to perform our traditional graduation, there’s not much else to do but accept and trust in God’s plans and move forward in the future. I believe that He does these things for a greater reason and for the greater good of everyone. After all I believe that our God does things for us, not because we want it or ask for it but because it’s what we need and is best for us. As for my future, I still am looking forward to pursuing my enlistment in the United States Marine Corps as an 0231 Intelligence Specialist. However due to the uncontrolled things that are happening right now, it has been delayed. In the meantime, I will be staying at home on Maui, taking college classes here and there from UHMC, continue working and hopefully leave for boot camp by the ending of February next year.” Kenneth Alba, Lahainaluna High School, son of Romeo and Leni Alba.

“Throughout the impact of COVID-19 many major problems and dilemmas have arisen. Cancellation of activities and ceremonies such as Graduation, Awards Night and face to face schooling has affected thousands of students by not giving them the time and space to recollect all the milestones from the past thirteen years of formal schooling of learners. With COVID-19 around, students were stripped of their right for proper farewells, final memories and gratitude toward each other. The joys of being together with one’s family to celebrate educational victories has been shifted to another form. Indeed, this is a new challenge to all of us who will virtually graduate as this academic calendar ends this year. My plan and course after high school has been affected greatly since counselors and advisors are no longer at immediate reach. Currently I plan to stay on Maui and pursue and study a program in the health field to help fight this dreaded COVID-19 disease. With all the chaos from this pandemic that we are all currently fighting through together, I believe that we will bounce back as we always have. For sure, in the end of this academic race, we will triumph as humanity with God’s mercy and grace.” Christian Alonzo, Maui High School, son of Luz and Pedro Alonzo.

“In life there are many things that we will go through that will shape who we become. As of right now, we are all going through the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s testing our mettle. I am currently a senior at Maui High School and I was supposed to graduate this year. Yeah, I am still graduating but not in the traditional way that I expected. I always dreamed of the large crowd sitting in front of me and my peers but instead I will be seeing a line of cars as my school is having a drive by alternative graduation. I believe this would be an equally memorable experience to live by. I served as class president through all my years in high school and I was really looking forward to leading and presenting the newest graduating class but I will not get the chance to. Even though we will not be recognized in the way we all wanted to be, I will never forget all the hard work I put into my high school years. There is so much we have to look forward to after graduation. My high school experience is definitely an unforgettable one. In the future I plan to major in Elementary Education and become an Elementary School Teacher and create a meaningful difference in Hawai‘i’s future through the youth. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of change and uncertainty to the world but one thing I know for sure is that there is always an after. And this is where my career will shine through. After quarantine we need to appreciate each other with acts of kindness. After this dark time, we need to see the good in all the small things. After we recover, we will not be the same, but we will be stronger. Together, we shall heal as one country and one humanity.” Christine Raras Alonzo, Maui High School, daughter of Pedro and Luz Alonzo.

“Tourism is a major aspect of what makes Hawai‘i a home to me. Having been born and raised in the islands, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the travel industry. In the fall of 2020, I will be attending the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and majoring in Travel Industry. At first when news broke out about COVID-19, I wasn’t too worried because living in Hawai‘i, I didn’t expect this pandemic to reach our island home. But when the Hawai‘i DOE officially announced that schools statewide would be closed for the remainder of the 2019–2020 school year, I was devastated. As president of two clubs at Maui High School, it saddened me that we couldn’t end the school year without having our annual end of the school year banquets and socials. But what saddened me the most was the fact that my class had our last day in school with our friends and teachers without knowing it would be the last time we would see each other.” Kenneth Alquisalas-Reyes, Maui High School, son of Jyrel Alquisalas-Reyes and Anthony Reyes.

“COVID-19 has affected everyone in different ways. Personally, it’s affected all the activities in my life as well as make for a very interesting senior year to say the least. It’s really bummed me out to say the least. I actually miss going to school and seeing my friends, getting to participate in clubs and all the joys that come with senior year. Prom and graduation being canceled was really a blow and I don’t think anyone in the class of 2020 is happy about it. I wish there was something we could do but it seems like that’s not in the cards. As far as my plans after high school goes, they luckily haven’t changed. I am going to UH Maui College to get my Associates degree in Hospitality and Tourism. I might go back after and get a certificate in Hawaiian Studies. I hope this pandemic ends soon so we can all go back to living our normal lives.” Tihani Arbogast, Kīhei Public Charter School, daughter of Eric and Patricia Arbogast.

“After graduating from Maui High School, I hope to attend the University of Hawai‘i Maui College for two years, working on the side and staying active in Maui’s community. I then hope to transfer to a two-year Radiology Program on either the mainland or O‘ahu. Then after two years, specializing in Ultrasound. I hope to work and live long term here on Maui but I am open to God’s plan on wherever he takes me. I aspire to serve Maui’s community and families by being an Ultrasound Technician. COVID-19 has directly impacted my senior year and graduation. I never imagined going into Senior Year that it would be drastically cut short. I never imagined that my last day in the Public DOE system would be a random Friday in March. Never thought that I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to all of my classmates and teachers, whom I’ve spent countless hours and years with. Having the class of 2020’s graduation ceremony cut short has been severely disappointing and emotional. Coming to terms that after thirteen years of schooling, that all of it would end with a virtual goodbye, has been difficult. Having reality sink in that I will not be able to take part in traditional events like Senior Breakfast, Senior Lū‘au, or even walking the line, has been complicated. Though, I remain eternally grateful for every experience I have been gifted to have experience. I take courage from parents, friends, and others, who know the importance of this milestone and boldly look towards what the future holds, even if the present is highly unfortunate.” Victoria Makena-Rose Blando, Maui High School, daughter of James and Wanda-Jeanne Blando.

“I think COVID-19 is something to be dealt with seriously. The potential of this virus has forced many schools and businesses to close its doors. It has also led to the cancellation of many important activities and events such as graduation. Graduation was one of the most important events to take place at the end of our high school journeys. To have graduation canceled was very sad to hear. Us seniors have worked very hard and have waited very long for this moment. My current plans after high school are to attend the University of Hawai‘i Maui College and to pursue my degree in liberal arts. This pandemic has not changed my plans after high school.” Ian Casabay, Maui High School, son of Anna Liza Casabay and Ernesto Casabay Jr.

“I didn’t want my senior year to end like this but things happened unexpectedly. COVID-19 pandemic has made a huge impact on us, to our livelihood and especially to our education. Many of us are expecting and looking forward to celebrating graduation with friends and family. I was hoping to have a bunch of lei to be given from my friends and relatives. We worked so hard these last four years, we put all our efforts and our very best to complete everything. It is supposed to be one of the most significant moments of our lives and yet COVID-19 took it away from us so quickly. No formal goodbyes from our friends and teachers. It is what it is and I hope this pandemic will end very soon and go back to normal. After high school, I plan to attend the University of Hawai‘i Maui College and continue to work hard for my future. I hope you don’t lose hope because of this. This is just one of the obstacles we have to face and lessons we have to remember through our journey for a successful life. I pray to God for everyone’s safety.” Liezel Dagdag, Maui High School, daughter of Manny Jun M. Dagdag and Grace B. Dagdag.

“To me, COVID-19 has brought upon a great deal of mourning of canceled activities, not being able to see loved ones on a day-to-day basis and how we used to live our lives. As of now, I believe that this entire pandemic will change our day-to-day lifestyle and how we approach certain things. Though unfortunately graduation got canceled, I think that we owe it to our healthcare workers and the rest of the essential workers to understand the situation. They are continuously providing service to our community and we owe it to them to abide by the regulations. Even with this pandemic occurring, this has not changed my plans for after high school. I still want to become a doctor (specifically a pediatrician), to help save lives and serve my community. I will be majoring in Biochemistry at Seattle University in the fall and am excited for my future to come!” Joebelle Failano Daludado, Maui High School, daughter of Joeffrey Daludado and Amabelle Gay Daludado.

“I’m honestly really upset that we don’t have a traditional graduation this year but it’s something we shouldn’t focus on right now because there’s always a college graduation to look forward to. To everyone, this wasn’t what we imagined our senior year to be like, we all wanted to enjoy every little bit of it, from our senior breakfast, to walking the line at graduation. Before this pandemic, I planned on getting a job to help my family but because of COVID-19, I have to wait until things go back to normal. I plan to attend UHMC with a Liberal Arts in Math then transfer to UH Mānoa to pursue Secondary Education in Math, Engineering, or Architecture.” Bradley Domingo, Maui High School, son of Myrna Domingo and Marlie Domingo.

“The cancellation of graduation was definitely a let-down. Not being able to celebrate a major part of high school with my friends and family isn’t the greatest feeling in the world but life moves on. The uncertainty of the future may lead to my plans changing, I might have to stay on-island until the pandemic subsides and life can go back to normal. My plan as of right now is to attend a university in the fall in the hopes of having a social and exciting college experience, and not going through another social distancing order in my community. The main thing I miss is hanging out with my friends and family.” Ethan Evangelista, Maui High School, son of Edward Evangelista and Susannah Evangelista.

“My plans after high school are to attend the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa this upcoming fall term to complete my liberals and eventually transfer to a university in the state of Washington to obtain my bachelor’s degree and attend a graduate school. My dream school is the University of Washington in Seattle, being one of the top medical schools in the United States. I will be attending college as a Psychology (BS) major, aspiring to become a physician who can help save lives. In college, I plan to take as many opportunities to grow my experience in the healthcare field through research projects and internships, which will further develop my strengths as an aspiring doctor. After the announcement of the rest of the school year being canceled due to safety precautions for COVID-19, I was in complete shock. I felt like my senior year was stolen away from me and I realized that I took it for granted. I used to put off hanging out with my friends because I found myself too busy with schoolwork and extracurricular activities. I used to think to myself; ‘I’ll have spring break and the rest of the year to hang out with them,’ but with the current stay-at-home order in Hawai‘i, this is no longer an option. COVID-19 has forced the 2020 class to resort to alternate graduation options instead of having the amazing recognition and relief from walking down the line and receiving their diplomas. If I’m planning to attend a university in the mainland, I will never be able to celebrate my undergraduate graduation where I would be lei’d. Thankfully, 2020 Baldwin High School graduates will be recognized on television for their achievements; however, I still yearn for the traditional graduation I’ve been waiting my whole life for.” Gem Kyla Cadiz Galapon, Baldwin High School, daughter of Gimna and Rogelio Galapon.

“My thoughts on the COVID-19 is a deep and sensitive topic because I feel like I was robbed of my graduation. I’m the youngest in my family and lived through three of my siblings’ experiences. Of course, I had it planned from the time I started school. I was going to have all my family there, I planned on having a big celebration and also being able to spend a month traveling to Disneyland, Utah, and then onto Colorado. Well, I guess that’s not happening. Even though I might not be able to walk the line like my siblings or parents, I’ve come to accept that there are greater things I need to worry about. As for college I will not be leaving to start as I so hoped for—classes will be done online for a while which no one is sure of. I won’t be meeting with my academic advisor or athletic advisor as we planned due to the COVID-19. It’s tough knowing that things are just unsure and no one really is able to say when my dreams of attending college will really happen.” Taylor Ganer, Lahainaluna High School, daughter of Alfred and Charmaine Ganer.

“I’ve never been one for ceremony, so graduation wasn’t that big a deal to me in the first place. Yet, after taking the cap and gown pictures for our alternate ceremony, I couldn’t help but think ‘Is this really it?’ I was handed the little embellishments I had worked so hard for, took pictures that hadn’t lasted five minutes and was sent out. I wasn’t expecting much of the traditional commencement but I didn’t feel the sense of closure and accomplishment that comes with graduating. I think it’s because I miss having a proper send-off from the daily life of high school. We didn’t get those last few months, then weeks, then days of jittery excitement. I miss my friends and teachers. It’s like I’m in limbo and all of a sudden I was slapped with a hack-job graduation and two weeks of finals to end my journey. Since COVID-19 was no one person’s fault though, I am kind of in a state of lethargic acceptance of what’s happening; I can see all the things I am missing, I can feel the dread of oncoming regret but I can’t do anything to stop it. So now, I’ll just keep pushing forward and look to a better college experience, hopefully at UH Mānoa where I can go Pre-Med. If anything, I am looking forward to our one-year reunion.” K. Liana Garcia, Baldwin High School, daughter of Ryan and Krissy Garcia.

“After high school, I plan to go to Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. I will be majoring in business studies of hospitality and entrepreneurial studies. After college, I plan to create my own business or work in the business industry. When I first heard about COVID-19, I really didn’t believe or think that it would have a negative impact on the last semester of my senior year. It was really surprising to think that the last day of school before spring break was the last time I would see all my friends and classmates on campus. After hearing that graduation would be canceled due to the circumstances, I was really heartbroken. Having graduation and seeing all your family and everyone that supported you from the beginning was the only thing I was looking forward to since freshman year and it’s a shame I won’t be able to see that. But I know that it’s just a little set back you’ll face in a long life of success.” Althea Garduque, Maui High School, daughter of Nelia and Venancio Garduque.

“The coronavirus will change our life as we know it but if we all work together we will come through it stronger. We just have to deal with it and move on. I am disappointed about the traditional graduation ceremony being canceled and not getting to celebrate with my friends but I am more disappointed about the cancellation of my robotics tournaments. Since January, my team has spent countless hours designing and building our 120 lb. robot from scratch. Many of us sacrificed our after school, weekends and holidays. Some of us often didn’t get home till 9 p.m., sometimes 11 p,m. We worked really hard and were looking forward to seeing it compete because we felt we had a pretty good robot. As a senior and the team’s head build captain, this robot to me was the product of the knowledge and expertise I’ve gained from my seven years of being in robotics. The COVID-19 did not necessarily change my plans after high school. I am still planning on attending UH Mānoa to study engineering and train with the Air Force ROTC.” Alex Macaraeg, Maui High School, son of Gener and Nora Macaraeg.

“As part of the class of 2020, I am incredibly devastated having my graduation canceled. For twelve years, I watched as each class ahead of mine walked across the stage, grabbed their diploma and received a traditional ceremony celebrating a big milestone in their life. It gave me motivation to complete my courses and be one of those to walk across the stage. It truly breaks my heart as this experience was taken away from the Class of 2020. Although with graduation being canceled causing a lot of discouragement, I am grateful to know that the community still tries their best and let our class know that our hard work is not gonna go unnoticed and still make an alternative ceremony celebrating the Class of 2020. It is still a milestone to complete twelve years of school and moving forward, I will continue my education attending Grand Canyon University to pursue nursing and accomplish more milestones.” Shamae Amber Medrano, Maui High School, daughter of Anabelle Medrano and Ernesto Medrano.

“It’s very saddening that the class of 2020 will not be able to experience what is a very important milestone in our lives. Thirteen years of schooling and we didn’t even get to the best part of it, which is walking the line. We also won’t get to experience our senior lū‘au or have our senior breakfast together. Those were some activities that I was really looking forward to this last quarter because it’s one of the last times our class will be together. This pandemic is a weird time for all of us and I’m just trying to get through it all like everyone else. Before this pandemic, I had plans of traveling to Canada in the summer to see family that I haven’t seen in a long time. But, with everything going on now, that might have to wait until next summer. I was also planning on getting a job for the summer to help my parents ease the stress of finances, but with limited businesses open and the precautions they’re taking to prevent the spread of the virus, I don’t have many options but to wait until the curve flattens. Due to COVID-19, my family has also dealt with the closure of a company which has led us to having a limited source of income. As for school, I plan on attending UHMC this fall and COVID-19 has not changed that. However, I can’t get the help from counselors to help me with this transition as I would’ve without this pandemic. On the bright side, this stay-at-home order has made me achieve my goal of exercising more.” Jeannine Miranda, Maui High School, daughter of Federico Jr. and Roselie Miranda.

“As a senior, it was astronomically devastating to hear the news about our graduation being canceled. It sucks for everyone to be in this position knowing that we spent thirteen years of our life going to and striving in school just to throw our hard work in the trash just because of the corona virus that became a worldwide pandemic. I was expecting the HIDOE to postpone instead of cancelling our traditional ceremony because the entire State of Hawai‘i would want to see the class of 2020 walking the line and getting their diplomas in their cap and gown instead of doing many alternative graduations just for the safety of ensuring the social distance methods. Besides the cancellation of graduation comes to the other events happening in school such as our Senior Lū‘au where we spend the last time together at our school as well as doing song practice for us to practice and sing our class graduation song and also walking out of school for the last time to show how we’re leaving high school to go onto our own paths as an individual. I’m already assuming that me and my sister’s graduation party is canceled and my college visit to explore my college had to be postponed to the day I have to move in. My plans after high school have stayed the same where I’m planning to attend Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California for the upcoming Fall 2020 Quarter where I’m majoring in Food Science.” Sebastian Montero-Quemado, Maui High School, son of Antonio Quemado, Jr. and Carmelita Quemado.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our way of living for the past couple of months which included us now wearing masks in public places and having a lock down. The cancellation of our Maui High graduation ceremony has saddened me because participating in the ceremony was going to be a monumental moment for me and my family. I would’ve been the first in my family to walk the line. I really wanted to see all of my family members congratulate me but now I won’t have that opportunity. I’ll still be attending college in the fall of this year and if this pandemic is still around then I will have the option of online college courses. I’ve been managing my extracurricular activities by doing virtual meetings online like Zoom. I miss all my friends and I hope the COVID-19 starts clearing up around the world so I can go back to doing fun activities and spending time with friends and family. We can get through this together.” Nash Murray, Maui High School, son of Tonya Murray and James Murray.

“COVID-19 has impacted everyone’s lives in the matter of months, there is no doubt about it. From the health care workers that work days on end trying to save lives, to those who no longer have jobs; trying to find ways to support themselves and their family. As for the high school seniors such as myself, we’ve lost one of the lasting moments in our high school careers. The experiences of senior lū‘au, seeing our teachers for the last time as we venture off to find ourselves. And one of the most important experiences of becoming a senior—graduation. Graduation was something I have always dreamed of having, not only was it because it meant we were done with school but it was a milestone we could proudly say we accomplished by simply walking down the line. Although this has created a barrier of negativity on seniors, as they lose motivation, I still plan on continuing my academic goals. Even though the world has come to a stop, it doesn’t mean your life has to. I still plan to go to Pacific University located in Forest Grove, Oregon where I plan to stay for the next six to eight years getting my Ph.D. in Psychology to eventually become a clinical psychologist. I hope every other senior has the motivation to continue and realize we are a part of history and everyone’s eyes are on us now. It just matters how you use the spotlight.” Daniza Faith Nono, Maui High School, daughter of Liza and Danilo Nono.

“When I think of COVID-19 all I think about is loss. COVID-19 has taught us that we should be mindful of our actions because although our actions may be little they can cause a ripple effect which creates major consequences. All we can do as a society is to do our best to prevent the spread of this virus. We need to practice social distancing and follow the laws that were set in place to keep us safe. The cancellation of activities is heartbreaking but it is necessary. Not having a graduation ceremony was the most disappointing thing to have happened to our class. Throughout the years we’ve worked so hard to get to the place we are today. I am so proud of our diligence and perseverance. My plans for after high school are still in place. I have already registered for classes. I will be attending UHMC to get my Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts. Then taking it one step at a time to see what I am passionate about.” Hazel Mae Patrocinio, Maui High School, daughter of Carmelit Patrocinio and Jose Patrocinio.

“The COVID-19 is a really unfortunate event that happened at an unfortunate time, especially for the class of 2020. As a result of this pandemic, the rest of the school year has been canceled, including our graduation ceremony. This ceremony was a chance to be with all my fellow students one last time and to celebrate our achievements together. We were all excited to have the graduation experience, like walking the line while people are cheering and being drowned in a bunch of lei. In addition to that, I never got to have my senior night for the extra-curricular activities I was a part of. It is quite upsetting that we didn’t get to experience our senior year to the fullest extent. After high school, I planned on attending San Diego State University to major in advertising. If this pandemic is still ongoing, however, we are unsure how that plan is going to play out. But despite this, we will remain strong and continue to be thankful for what we have.” Jillian Ped, Maui High School, daughter of Richard Ped and Isabelita Ped.

“High School was a crazy ride to be on, with many ups and downs. Through the hardships, the class of 2020 has learned to bounce back and reap the rewards that await in the future. Moving forward into college is going to be a bittersweet, yet exciting transition. I plan to attend Hawai‘i Pacific University majoring in Electrical Engineering. Without a set choice of a career, I am still optimistic and look forward to what will come after college. COVID-19 has really shaken the world and has pushed humanity in a state of fear and uncertainty. Even during our time spent away from our loved ones, we will remain strong and have faith in God that this pandemic will pass and cause us to look at the good in all the chaos. With the absence of having traditional graduation, it was saddening to hear that we will not be walking down the same line that the previous classes had before us. But life will move forward anyhow. I wish the best to my fellow classmates and that we will be strong as we move into the real world.” Matthew Poe, Maui High School, son of Beth and Barry Poe.

“After high school, I plan to attend Northern Arizona University, where I will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business management. After college, I actually want to pursue a career as a stewardess for United Airlines because I love traveling and this career has always been one of my long-term dreams. As of right now, I am not completely sure as to where exactly I would want to live to pursue this dream but either California, Colorado or O‘ahu. Then, I will move into the business field as I want to have my own business in the fashion industry because I think it would be a really fun experience and I love clothes. My thoughts on COVID-19 as a senior in high school are probably just about the same as any other seniors’ thoughts. Personally, I am really devastated that I am not having a graduation ceremony and I won’t be able to say that I had the full high school experience. I miss being able to see my friends and spending these last few moments with them. However, this pandemic has taught me that if I can overcome such an impactful and harmful moment in history I will be able to overcome anything else I come across. All in all, I am very grateful for the people I do have in my life who have kept me motivated during this outbreak.” Araeli Prado-Rodriguez, Baldwin High School, daughter of Flora Rodriguez Maya and Arturo Prado Vivero.

“After high school, I will be attending Grand Canyon University and will be majoring in Nursing. I have not fully decided on what type of nurse I want to be but I am interested in being a Trauma Nurse. I like the challenge which will encourage me to do a lot of critical thinking. After acquiring the education I need to become a Trauma Nurse, I plan to move back here on Maui and work at Maui Memorial Hospital. At first, I didn’t think much about how COVID-19 could affect my senior year of high school. But when school was canceled, I knew that this was a serious issue the global community would be facing. I am sure that the government made a very tough decision of canceling traditional graduation ceremonies but it still pains me that I won’t get to experience this special day. Unlike the past, the class of 2020 won’t know the feeling of their loved ones cheering when our name gets called, walking up the stage to grab our diploma and having lei around our necks to the point we can no longer see. Not only did our graduation get taken away from us but also the last few months of high school that is usually spent to honor us, the seniors. Because of COVID-19, we won’t be experiencing Senior Breakfast, Senior Walk, Graduation Practices, and most of all, the last day of school. We were not given the chance to say our goodbyes to our favorite teachers, to attend our last class of each subject and to sit next to the people who we just spent the last four years with for the last time. We had our last day of school without even knowing it.” Nicole Abigail Rabanal, Maui High School, daughter of Clarita and Nelson Rabanal.

“COVID-19 has affected everyone in many ways. Our average daily life has stopped. We have to stay home and avoid gatherings for everyone to be safe. Also, us students stopped going to school, which made our last year of high school sad. My classmates and I never had proper goodbyes, final walk at school, and a traditional graduation. It’s disappointing but it was for everyone’s safety. After high school, I still plan to go to University of Hawai‘i Maui College.” Sherille Rafael, Maui High School, daughter of Merlinda Rafael and Felix Rafael.

“After high school, I plan on attending UHMC and take liberal arts. At this age, I am still trying to figure out what I plan on taking for a career. I am still experimenting and researching about the different career paths this world has to offer. After this pandemic is over, I plan on being an intern for people with different professions to find out more about my likes and dislikes when it comes to the workforce. I think that the COVID-19 occurring at this time is very depressing for everyone, not just for us seniors. Due to this virus, many of our plans got canceled and are forced to stay indoors. However, if it weren’t for this virus I would not really have gotten to spend time with my family and I would not have learned the value of the things I had or could do before, such as getting to hug my friends and seeing my cousins from the other side of the island. I realized that I took a lot of things for granted and it is really accurate when people say that ‘you don’t realize the value of something until it is gone.’ Obviously I am devastated that I couldn’t experience the traditional way of graduation and the time I had left of school has been cut off. However, I understand that it is a necessary decision to keep our families safe.” Luzcilla Roflo Rumbaoa, Maui High School, daughter of Amado Rumbaoa, Jr. and Luzviminda Rumbaoa.

“‘How bad could it get?’ was my first thought when all of this started. Now, at arm’s length away, I’m trying to stay optimistic and mindful of my family’s health and others. Striving to deal with this whole situation is challenging but I am finding that as long as I do my part and others do theirs, this should be all over soon, right? Yes, at first I was bummed about graduation and unable to enjoy my last months as a senior with my friends and teachers. But this didn’t stop me from moving forward and being grateful for what I have already done and worked hard for. My plans after high school are the same, continuing my education at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. I intend to study in Medical Technology and lend my set of hands towards our community’s healthcare. Inevitably, we cannot go back to how things were. And whether I continue my studies virtually or in a distanced face-to-face setting, I know that I will learn nonetheless. And whatever happens, I know that I can surmount anything.” Aubrey Santiago, Maui High School, daughter of Alexander Santiago and Myrla Santiago.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is very unfortunate. Not only are lives being affected but many important events such as graduation are canceled. Many seniors, including myself, are saddened by this decision but the safety for our community is the priority. Although there is the pandemic going on, my plans for college—attending the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and majoring in pre-medicine—still remain.” Princess Santiago, Maui High School, daughter of Nancy and Jerry Santiago.

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will certainly be one of the most bizarre events that I have witnessed throughout my life. You would imagine that staying home all day and not going to school or work is a dream but I can most certainly tell you that it’s not! Especially for those who value daily routines and are used to having set schedules, this virus has truly disrupted the balance of our lives. The cancellation of many events, including graduations, due to the pandemic was something that I knew would happen but I’m still terribly upset over. Obviously there isn’t much we can do but follow the stay-home orders and practice social distancing but it truly is heartbreaking for myself and many other seniors that were looking forward to a traditional graduation ceremony. Many graduating seniors look forward to these ceremonies because this experience is like no other compared to other states. The virus hasn’t changed my future plans at all. Unless it develops into a much more serious situation (which I hope it doesn’t) I will be following through with going to college at UHMC to prepare for my dream career as a freelance graphic designer.” Cathleen Sijalbo, Maui High School, daughter of Leonila and Romeo Sijalbo.

“During this pandemic, everything has changed for me. Since this is my last year of high school and as the youngest of three brothers and being the only girl in my family, it has really affected me. Being the last in my family to graduate, I really wanted my parents to see their only daughter walk the line on May 17th, but due to COVID-19, I can no longer do that. The day they announced that we can no longer have traditional graduation, I was just shocked and frustrated. Having thirteen years of education and not celebrating it with my classmates, it really is devastating and hard to believe. But we do need to take this virus seriously, we need to stay home and stay healthy. This is how we can move forward and get past this. As for myself, this has not changed my decision after high school, which is to attend UHMC (undecided major) or to join the Army National Guard.” Haley Marie Sumibcay, Maui High School, daughter of Constante and Rosanna Sumibcay.

“My plans after high school is to attend a four-year university to study civil engineering or possibly education. As for a career, I would probably want to work in the Department of Transportation. Although I am sad about not having a traditional graduation, I am looking forward to becoming a Maui High School Alumnus.” Jayson Tagala, Maui High School, son of Elymar and Lourdes Tagala.

“The world we live in is a constantly changing world, so while COVID-19 was a big shocker, my friends and I found that we were able to quickly adapt to daily life at home. Being a senior, this meant that events such as the graduation ceremony or Project Grad had been postponed or cancelled. When I received this news, I was disappointed but I’d much rather be safe than sorry. The state of the pandemic is very serious, and it would be much better to have a late or possibly alternate commencement ceremony if it means that the health of the students, staff, their families, and their friends will remain safe. Coincidentally enough, I’ve actually had plans to become an infectious disease doctor even before this whole pandemic. For the longest time, I’ve had an interest in pathogens, so I’ve been closely following the news of the virus. My post high school plans are to attend Seattle University on a Pre-Med track and after that, hopefully get accepted into medical school. After completing my education, I wish to return to Maui and continue to help my community and my school. Even with the virus, none of my plans have changed and if anything, I have found a stronger desire to help others suffering from illnesses. Although COVID-19 has impacted us greatly, I think that this terrible event will teach us a lot of things, helping the medical field prevent something like this in the future. I hope that one day, I can also join that fight against disease.” Daniel Tongson, Saint Anthony High School, son of Angeles and Veranio Tongson.

“COVID-19 is impacting the whole world. At first, I thought this virus wasn’t that big of a deal. Towards the end of my 3rd quarter of school, it started to get worse. I started to get worried about my parents because they fall in the high-risk category. I’ve been working five days a week since I’m the only one working in the family as of now. People should really take this pandemic very seriously. I’ve been seeing a high amount of content of this pandemic every single day on my social media and I’ve learned that almost 8,000 Americans have been dying A DAY. I’ve found myself buying high quantities of essential supplies, strongly driven by fear from my surroundings whenever going out in public. So, everyone please stay safe and healthy. Not sharing is now caring. I’m part of the Maui High School Band and this pandemic has canceled our most important concerts of the quarter, our Spring and Aloha Concerts. The band has been rehearsing hard for the Spring Concert because the Color Guard also performs. It’s really sad that the Aloha Concert is canceled too because it’s the last concert with the seniors and it also acknowledges their accomplishments and their future. Big mahalos to the best band director, Mr. Kerry Wasano. Maui High’s traditional Graduation Ceremony is also canceled along with the rest of Hawai‘i’s public schools. I was really looking forward to graduation since it’s a huge milestone for the high school seniors. I’ve seen a lot of friends and family walk across the stage and graduate with their classmates for the last time and see their families very proud of them. I’m sad to say that we won’t be experiencing that. I know that we still have an alternative graduation but it just won’t feel the same. I’m just making the best of it until I’m officially an alumnae. I’m part of student government and I am Senior Class Treasurer and every class council is making ways to stay positive throughout this pandemic. My plan after graduation is to enlist into the military. I am currently in the process now with my local recruiting station and COVID-19 may change that in the future but that is still to be determined. I’m glad to say that I’m thankful that I joined Student Government and Band and thankful for all the friends I’ve made throughout high school. Despite all the hardships that our class has been through, we are ‘ohana and we are strong. #2020STRONG.” Anna Mae Tumacder, Maui High School, daughter of Macario “Mac” Tumacder and Aniceta “Annie” Tumacder.

“COVID-19 has changed many lives. In the beginning I was like many and didn’t think this pandemic would change a whole lot or last that long and I didn’t think much of it. Until I saw and heard everything that happened. People lost their jobs and lives. Curfews were put into place. Social distancing and wearing protective clothing became the new normal. Many people can no longer enjoy the activities they love such as playing sports, shopping, going to parties, or even going to the beach. My fellow classmates and I can no longer have a proper graduation ceremony. The virus stopped me from seeing all of my friends at school and canceled my practices and competitions with my Army JROTC Raider team. I can no longer go to the beach and enjoy sitting in the sand or even go out and hangout with my friends like we used to. I won’t be able to make more high school memories since school has been canceled. I know I’m not the only one who’s been missing school even if it’s just for the social experience. I am extremely disappointed I won’t be able to have a graduation ceremony and walk the line with all my friends and receive lei with them from our families. All of my hard work won’t be able to be properly celebrated with everyone. As of right now COVID-19 hasn’t canceled my future plan of enlisting into the United States Army. That is one thing that I still look forward to after this whole pandemic.” Reece H. Ugalino, Baldwin High School, son of Michelle Kaopuiki and Efren Ugalino.

“I was really excited to be a senior and spend the last year of high school with everyone and make the best memories, unfortunately the coronavirus had other plans. This virus really took us to a different and chaotic path. At first, we all suspected that it will eventually die down and not affect the islands. But as soon as word got out there were a few people infected, our school academic competitions, sports competitions and club socials all got canceled. Then the next thing I knew was that the rest of the semester was canceled. Our senior lū‘au got canceled, prom got canceled, and lastly our graduation got canceled. I have been waiting to walk down that aisle with my cap and gown ready to be handed my diploma since I started middle school. We have all been working so hard throughout these four years of high school yet we don’t get to have our traditional graduation. We don’t even get say goodbye to our teachers and to our classmates who we grew up with since elementary school. It’s all been very rough and depressing throughout this whole pandemic but I’m glad we’re taking precautions to keep everybody safe. After high school I plan to go Northern Arizona University and major in the medical field. Unfortunately, orientation has been canceled and moved online. So instead of being able to visit the university, meet other students, and talk to someone about the school face-to-face, all of it is now virtual. But thankfully, the university will be open in the fall semester so the students will be able to attend to their classes then.” Juliane Venezuela, Baldwin High School, daughter of Luz Venezuela.

Mahalo to the Fil-Am Voice for allowing us to share our stories.

Congratulations to our fellow graduates—the Class of 2020 for your achievements and we wish you well in your future endeavors. We hope you will always remember that Maui will always be home and that we’re rooting for your success.

The challenges we faced during our last year of high school are overwhelming … and unfair. We are deprived of certain traditions through no fault of our own. Our families and friends were also deprived of the joy of participating in our graduation ceremonies and parties.

Yes, Life isn’t fair but Life must go on.

As we struggle to meet the challenges of COVID-19 and work for a new normal, remember we are all in this together.

Ghenesis Jhay Balaan, is a member of the Class of 2020 at Maui High School and attended its Culinary and Health CTE Pathway. He is a three-year member of Maui High HOSA-Future Health Professionals and served as its Council Treasurer in 2017-2018. Ghenesis hopes to become a respiratory therapist in the future. He is the eldest son of Benjamin V. Ballesteros Jr. and Jerameelyn B. Ballesteros.


Romelyn Joy Tabangcura, is a member of the Class of 2020 at Maui High School. She is the current president of Maui High HOSA-Future Health Professionals and is also a member of the National Honor Society, a prestigious organization of students who show scholarship, leadership, service and character. Romelyn aspires to be a nurse practitioner one day and serve the people of Hawai‘i. She is the daughter of Romeo and Roselyn Tabangcura.