Class of 2021 Commencement

ʻIolani School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2021 took place on Saturday, June 5. Dr. Timothy R. Cottrell, who is in his ninth year as ʻIolani's Head of School, conducted the ceremony.


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On behalf of Chair Dr. Mark Mugiishi and the members of the Board of Governors, as well as my distinguished colleagues of the administration, faculty and staff, welcome to the commencement ceremony for the Class of 2021.

We gather today to celebrate the achievements of the students before you and to send them forth into a new chapter of their lives, while remaining part of the One Team that is ‘Iolani School.

A testament to this bond is the presence of a special group of alumni.

Each year ‘Iolani alumni celebrating their 50th reunion are invited to join us as special guests for commencement.

We are honored that 18 members of the Class of 1971 have joined us today, in their 50th reunion year, to celebrate the Class of 2021, reflect on their own time at ‘Iolani and present our school with their class gift.

The Class of 1971 is donating an extremely generous class gift this year in excess of $1,000,000 which they have raised in support of scholarships/financial aid, campus expansion and other initiatives.

Some have traveled from the mainland to be here today, together as classmates in support of their school.

The Class of 1971 has stayed very close over the decades, in fact, their class is the eldest class that still works a whole day at a food booth at the ‘Iolani Fair.

Members of the class have prepared a video message they would like to share with today's graduating class. We will show that in just a moment, but first, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in recognizing and thanking the Class of 1971.

Gentlemen, welcome home!

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We have had yet another great year at ‘Iolani School.

Our outstanding faculty, staff and coaches have prepared and mentored ‘Iolani students to compete and succeed at the highest levels.

In academics and the arts:

The Class of 2021 has 17 National Merit Scholarship finalists and a Presidential Scholar.

The Raider Math Team competed this year in unofficial meets due to COVID restrictions and the Varsity and JV teams took first place in all seven meets.

Our Science Olympiad Division C team participated in 10 invitationals and tournaments, including the State and National Science Olympiad Tournaments. They collectively won more than 80 medals in various events and represented Hawai‘i at the National Science Olympiad. At Nationals, they finished 15th out of 60 teams, which placed ‘Iolani as the top finishing independent school in the nation.

At the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair, which used to be known as the Intel award, one student won the first-place award from the Central Intelligence Agency and fourth-place Grand Award in Material Sciences for her project “Engineering an Invasive Algae and Taro Based Bioplastic.” And another student achieved the third-place Grand Award in Robotics and Intelligent Machines for his project “An AI-aided Solution to Open-angle Glaucoma Screening in Developing and Rural Countries.”

At the Hawai‘i Association of Independent Schools Science Fair, 29 students competed with 26 projects achieving five first-place, four second-place and four third-place awards. Fifteen of the projects advanced to Hawai‘i State Science and Engineering Fair, where they won the first, second and third-place Grand Awards for the State.

Our Speech and Debate team competed in six tournaments, including the State Championship. At the State Championship Tournament, ‘Iolani students took two first-place, two second-place and two third-place awards.

In economics, our team once again will represent Hawai‘i at the 2021 National Economics Challenge as Hawai‘i State Champions.

Our Model UN team participated in five conferences and workshops, and collectively earned over 40 awards and honorable mentions this season.

The ‘Iolani Cyberpatriots team qualified for Nationals with a “Platinum Tier” first-place award in the State of Hawai‘i.

In the annual Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, ‘Iolani students, achieved 39 Gold and Silver Key awards and 37 Honorable Mention awards.

Interestingly, during a time in which so much of our lives has become virtual or recorded, our students had a truly remarkable year as film producers. The films “HITMAN” and “” were featured by the Cannes Film Festival American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase and each individually won nine state and national awards. “HITMAN” and “” and the film “The Devil Dwells Near” were also Hawai‘i International Film Festival selections. An ‘Iolani student won the Hawai‘i International Film Festival Future Filmmakers Contest for the film “With Love.” The films “Dare Yourself,” “The Colors of Seoul,” “The Perfect Plan” and “Text Later, to Text Later” were recognized with multiple national and international awards.

Imua ‘Iolani, our student magazine, won first-place in illustration and design at the Hawai‘i High School Journalism Awards and was awarded two gold, six silver and three bronze awards at the High School Pele Awards.

In athletics:

We faced many COVID related challenges with many teams losing their seasons with interscholastic competition opening up only within the second half of the school year.

In this shortened year, our ‘Iolani boys varsity swimming and diving team won the ILH championship for the first time in 15 years.

In track and field, at the ILH championship meet, our boys varsity team finished in first-place overall, winning their first ILH championship since 1999.

Our boys varsity cross country team won the ILH championship.

The boys varsity tennis team won the Clay Benham ILH Tennis Championship.

And our JV cheerleading squad won the ILH title.

A member of the Class of 2021 was named Gatorade Player of the Year in girls basketball and also inducted into the Hawai‘i State Hall of Honor.

In Esports, our ‘Iolani Smash Ultimate red team was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the PlayVS Coastal Region Smash Ultimate Championship Playoffs Tournament. The ‘Iolani Madden NFL team black finished in first-place in the Spring 2021 PlayVS Coastal Region Madden tournament. And the ‘Iolani Valorant team red finished in first-place in the PlayVS Extra Credits Tournament.

Overall as a school, we also received noteworthy recognitions this past year. ‘Iolani is the No. 1 ranked school in Hawai‘i from Newsweek and, with our new boarding program already ranked in the top 40 nationally. And we recently finished first in the large corporation category in Pacific Business News’ “Best Places to Work.”

We have much for which to be thankful as a school and community. And at ‘Iolani, we achieve together, as One Team.

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It is now my privilege to present awards to members of the graduating class.

This year, we have 42 students who have earned the title of valedictorian. These are the students who have earned all A’s in their time at ‘Iolani as well as those with higher weighted GPAs.

As you can imagine with a group this size, they encompass an astonishing breadth of accomplishment within every aspect of the school. They are athletes, artists, musicians, and community servants, and they have assembled amazing academic records in their time here.

I am pleased to introduce each of them to you: 

Dagny Brand -- University of Notre Dame
Kristin Chang -- University of British Columbia
Maya Chang -- University of Hawai‘i, Manoa
Liana Chinen -- Creighton University
Andrew Dawson -- Duke University
Dylan Dinio -- Northeastern University
Darren Do -- University of Washington
Jayson Guo -- Stanford University
Amaris Hall -- Vassar College
Madeline Heyler -- Princeton University
Jeein Hong -- University of Pennsylvania
Ethan Hui -- University of California, Los Angeles
Joie Inouye -- University of Hawai‘i, Manoa
Korn Jiamsripong -- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Adrienne Kaneshiro -- University of Hawai‘i, Manoa
Dylan Kaneshiro -- University of Texas, Dallas
Kaylie Kaneshiro -- Tufts University
Naomi Kobayashi -- University of California, Los Angeles
Justin Lee -- University of Southern California
Joshua Lerner -- University of British Columbia
Rachel Lu -- University of Hawai‘i, Manoa
Ariel Ma -- Rice University
Taysia Morioka -- University of Michigan
Kayla Mukai -- Brown University
Kelly Mukai -- Brown University
Misa Muranaka -- University of Notre Dame
Tierra Nakamura -- University of Washington
Thomas Noochan -- Northeastern University
Carlson Ogata -- Brown University
Joshua Park -- Harvard University
Summer Royal -- Stanford University
Hunter Schmidt -- Stevens Institute of Technology
Jacob Seto -- University of Washington
Alexa-Rae Simao -- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Mariko Storey-Matsutani -- Princeton University
Kaila Sung -- Brown University
Troy Tamura -- Purdue University
Lauren Tapper -- University of Denver
Tyler Toma -- University of California, Los Angeles
John Vierra -- Georgetown University
Kacey Yamane -- Northeastern University    
Jonah Yoshida -- California Institute of Technology

Congratulations to all of you!

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The Alumni Medals are given to the top male and female student-athletes in the class.

Escorting our winners are teachers and staff who have made an impact on these young scholars. I ask Dr. Jeff Pearson, Dr. Steve Borick and Ms. Carrie Miwa to bring to the stage Andrew Dawson, Josh Lerner and Taysia Morioka.

Taysia, escorted by her library supervisor Ms. Miwa, has been a star in our cheerleading and judo programs. In addition to her exceptional academic work, she’s served as a class officer, Japanese tutor, and on a host of student council committees. The University of Michigan is fortunate to welcome Taysia this fall.

Andrew, escorted by his Latin instructor Dr. Jeff Pearson, has helped lead our water polo and basketball teams throughout his time in high school, while being heavily involved in independent research through the Sullivan Center. Though his future may lie in astronautical engineering, he is grounded by his interest and accomplishments in a variety of disciplines. Andrew will be fortunate to be present for Mike Krzyzewski’s final year at Duke University.

Josh Lerner, escorted by Dr. Steve Borick, has been a great runner in our cross country and track teams, while also thriving in all of his classes. He is particularly fond of his physics courses, but was also one of the first students to study AP Chemistry as a sophomore. Josh will be crossing the border to attend the University of British Columbia in the fall.

Congratulations Taysia, Andrew, and Josh!

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The Bishop’s Award goes to the senior who has given unselfish service to church, school and community and who demonstrates outstanding witness to faith in Christ and commitment to principle.

Escorting this year’s winner is her Spanish instructor, who has taught her for three years. Profe Barnard, please bring to the stage Madeline Heyler.

Maddy is a leader and accomplished member of our Speech and Debate team, and an exceptional scholar who is passionate about making the world a better place. In the fall, she will be walking around Nassau Hall at Princeton University.

Congratulations, Maddy!

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The Headmaster’s Award presented to the graduate who has made an exceptional contribution to ‘Iolani School.

Our winner is escorted by his Fair Chair and psychology instructor. Ms. Ernette Au, please bring to the stage Logan Horita.

Logan has immersed himself in the life of ‘Iolani since joining the school in the sixth grade. Whether it’s starring in an IDP production, chairing the ‘Iolani Fair, or reaching out to new students, Logan throws himself into each activity with all his energy. His love of ‘Iolani may only be matched by his love of all things Disney. Following his mission, Logan will enroll at Brigham Young University.

Congratulations, Logan!

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We are pleased with the accomplishments of all our students, and we honor them at award ceremonies throughout the year as well as at these commencement exercises today.

I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize yet one more group of students. These are students who bring good character, generosity of spirit and a positive attitude to campus each day. They are important in defining who we are as a school and as a community. They make a difference in the lives of their teachers and classmates, yet seldom receive the spotlight they deserve.

Please allow me to introduce to you our Unsung Heroes

Isabella Tello-Ballejos -- Sarah Lawrence College
Kara Kodani -- University of California, Berkeley
Ryan Kai Kinningham -- Pace University
Lily Nell -- University of Victoria
Christina Au -- Santa Clara University
Alexia Maki -- University of Hawai‘i, Manoa
Jacob Torres -- Creighton University
Carly Venenciano -- Occidental College
Nikki Lum -- University of Hawai‘i, Manoa
Katherine Kan -- University of California, Berkeley
Dyson Lee -- Yonsei University
Aria Minami -- Pepperdine University
Myndee Dyer -- University of Hawai‘i, Manoa
Jase Arakaki -- Oregon State University

Thank you, Unsung Heroes, for your contributions to our community.

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Class of 2021, there are a few parts to what I want to share with you today and all of it was inspired by the words of you and your peers.

In sharing thoughts behind the theme of this year’s yearbook, your fellow students talked about how Volume 98 of Ka Mo‘olelo O ‘Iolani is a celebration of the many people who helped us safely stay together and create moments that make us proud to be a Raider. How we rose above incredible challenges. Our community’s ability to embrace and triumph over unprecedented obstacles. That we charted new courses, opened new possibilities, welcomed the challenges that others avoided and stood together as one.

It took all of us working extremely hard and with absolute dedication to have an on-campus school year in the midst of a global pandemic that largely shut down in-person education across our nation.

Some of this happened outside of your experience, the day-to-day role that you had as students, and I want to share with you some key elements that made this year possible.

My intention in doing so is a recognition of your role as future leaders and the hope that your experience and what you’ve learned from overcoming this pandemic crisis, along with some insight into what we did as an institution, will further empower you to lead.

Those of us who created the plan for this school year did so last summer and this was in the context of two overarching themes.

One was an intentional assault on the idea of objective truth, an assault that regrettably continues to be underway, and which sowed a tremendous amount of confusion about the pandemic.

The other was fear. Quite simply the fear of catching a potentially fatal disease or this happening to a loved one.

At that time, there weren’t clear guidelines from the government or other trusted organizations. So, we had to chart our course through this crisis in something of an information and guidance fog, with disinformation coming from many directions.

This was difficult, because as a leader, if your goal is to empower people to work together as a team, you need to create alignment.

Alignment is the idea that we share beliefs, collectively agree on where we want to go and then row together in that direction.

We started by working to understand what was going on with the assault on truth in our society. It wasn’t hard to identify. And this was very well articulated when one of our alums, Guy Kawasaki ’72, had Stanford Professor Sam Wineberg on his “Remarkable People” podcast.

Dr. Wineberg shared that the goal of undermining a belief in objective truth is to establish and maintain power over people.

When you can’t trust anything in terms of the information you receive, everything becomes equally valid or invalid, no matter how nonsensical. This is one of the key strategies of authoritarian regimes -- to destroy the belief in objective truth, and by doing so undermine trust in all sources of information.

If this is achieved, then an authoritarian regime controls the narrative that creates a “truth” for a citizenry that has given up on the idea of objective truth.

This is the opposite of what is essential for a democracy which fundamentally requires a high commitment to truth and trust in information sources in order to have an informed citizenry that engages in debate that isn’t founded on opinion or misinformation.

Last summer, we were in the thick of this as our government denied the threat of COVID, disseminated self-serving “truths” from previously trusted agencies and we had foreign influences using social media to fan the flames of information confusion. Dr. Wineberg called this an infodemic to go along with the pandemic.

Understanding this, we took the position of establishing an accepted truth about the pandemic, and as a school community we are blessed with people who could help us do so.

Seniors, you may not know this but in an abbreviated way we took your parents, the faculty and staff to school last summer with a couple of webinars that established a science-based truth about COVID-19 from which we could gain alignment, share trust, begin rowing in the same direction, and effectively  implement strategies to re-establish in-person education.

This worked, we have a wonderful school community, and it created the environment from which we could implement our plan. However, even with the truth of science and community alignment, fear is still a very real barrier to overcome when faced with genuine personal risk.

As we moved into mid-August with the hope of opening the school year on campus, the climate was a big uptick in local COVID cases that traced back to the Fourth of July and daily news about the spread of the disease and who was most at risk.

As we knew then and now, one of the highest risk factors for severe COVID complications is age. And many of your teachers were considered to be in the high-risk category.

This was the same situation at schools locally and across the country.

So, in a very real way, we asked for trust in our safety plan, but the risk was potentially extremely high on an individual basis. Our institutional message was trust the plan because it will allow us to return and also please trust that it will protect you from a life threatening illness.

The second part of this statement goes beyond trust. It’s more of a leap of faith. And many schools didn’t return because of it.

Your teachers did.

And this was simply an act of courage in the face of fear and a demonstration of their commitment to all of you.

We knew that being online addressed academics to a degree, however, we also knew that young people need each other and a community in order to grow and be happy.

It’s the nature of who we are that as we grow into young adults, we need a herd of others around us to give us the bumps, bruises, slights, joys, laughs, smiles and the connections that provide social fulfillment and emotional learning.

Our urgency in getting ‘Iolani students back on campus was therefore largely driven by our concern for your overall wellness, with academics as just one part of this.

We asked the faculty and staff to return for you and they did.

I share this with you because it is different than an idea like gaining alignment in order to lead people in a direction. Fear isn’t rational and overcoming it is more like the act of climbing up over the side of a trench and charging into the unknown because you are simply committed to a cause and the people around you.

Your teachers faced this for you, before their colleagues at nearly any other school were capable of doing so.

The leadership lesson here is about finding ways to support people in taking this kind of a step. However, what is much more important today is that you know that people did this on your behalf and we hope that you appreciate their courage and commitment to you for the rest of your days.

So, the faculty and staff were courageous in facing their fears as we looked to return to this campus in September. And there was one group that we hadn’t engaged yet and it was you, the student body. 

I can remember feeling truly concerned in the days leading up to reopening and the expression that stuck in my head was from boxing, that “everybody has a plan until you get punched in the face.” Or you don’t really know good your plan is until it runs into reality.

The plan was largely dependent on your acceptance of it, the acceptance of the student body, of a daily commitment to all the safety measures we needed to implement. And as I said, we hadn’t done the alignment work with you.

What we had and depended on is our school culture -- that, the values and beliefs that make up One Team already create a foundation of trust on which we live together in this school community.

Ten months later, we can look back and see that this was the case. Our One Team culture is the greatest asset of ‘Iolani School and we know this because you made it all work. And more than that, the entire student body immediately recognized its responsibilities and lived up to them every day.

As the yearbook team said, we achieved and overcame these obstacles together.

It’s telling that this year’s yearbook dedicatee is a person who we might have called the Upper School Chief Compliance Officer of Daily Safety Measures, which put him in the position of correcting a lot of behavior -- not a situation that usually leads to an honored recognition from those being corrected.

In part this was because of Mr. Yamamoto’s style in doing his work, however, it also speaks to how the Class of 2021 led the student body in a way that embraced the shared responsibilities that were necessary for us to be together in person.

This was clear in the yearbook message and on behalf of the entire student body, I want to thank the Class of 2021 for consistently leading from the values and beliefs that make up One Team.

The moral of this part of my story to you today is to seek truth, to commit to it in all things, to know that trust is the glue that holds people together to achieve and overcome obstacles as a team.

To be aware of the people who do great things on your behalf and thank them.

And, to continue to enrich the communities you enter with these values and the leadership you’ve shown at ‘Iolani.

The other thoughts I want to share come from the words that your classmates Logan, Julia, Sydney, John and Emily shared this past Sunday at our Baccalaureate service.

It is a list of things they said for which your school is truly grateful.

Your classmates voiced an expression of our school as an anthropomorphized mother, a caretaker, who felt great loss due to the absence of young people on her campus. It focused on how “she” ‘Iolani School got to work to solve problems, address risks, quell fears and re-establish the meaning of her existence.

Your teachers are grateful that the experience they have guided you through during your years at ‘Iolani, an experience that required a lot of work on your part, instilled an appreciation of and commitment to work ethic in each of you.

When faced with a problem, “she” ‘Iolani School got to work.

As your teachers, we are advocates for you for the rest of your lives and your creating and sharing this metaphor fills us with joy because there are many research studies that look to correlate individual qualities with future success and again and again, they have shown that talent is secondary to work ethic when it comes to predicting success.

You are all talented and you are leaving ‘Iolani with a little super power in this world that is your experience with work. When you are faced with a problem, you know to get work on solving it.

Continuing to speak metaphorically about our school, we heard that our sails became filled with the fear of the unknown and that we faced these fears together as a community committed to each other and achieving together as a team. 

We are so grateful to hear you recognize the importance of community, commitment to each other and the power of achieving together.

This is one of our great strengths and why we can say, from the heart, ‘Iolani no ka oi. And just as in the case of work ethic, it’s a bit of a superpower that you take into the world. You know the power of teamwork, how to be a great teammate and how to lead in a team-based setting.

We are also grateful to have heard your appreciation of the people who worked on your behalf so that you could have a Senior Palooza at Kualoa Ranch, RaiderFest, the Burning of the I, and a senior prom.

Your recognition that many people contribute to the success and opportunities of your life and the awareness to thank them is what we mean when we use the word humility at ‘Iolani School.

This is a humility that paves the way for many positive things and maintains the understanding that our connections to and support from others is an essential part of what makes our successes possible.

We watched you speak with great vulnerability in front of your peers, a true demonstration of courage, and heard a story that recounted our commitment that “at ‘Iolani you are known” and how recognizing the people around you is an intentional act of caring that strengthens a community.

We are grateful to have heard you speak with such wisdom.

And we feel blessed by your appreciation that like the monarch butterfly, you see ‘Iolani as a home to which you will always know how to return.

We have given you all that we have.

We have grown together through your ‘Iolani experience. And we will always be here for you as a place of friendship and community.

Congratulations Class of 2021 on your graduation from ‘Iolani School.

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Chair Mark Mugiishi and members of the Board of Governors: We, the faculty and administration of ‘Iolani School, in consonance with the laws of the State of Hawai‘i and our requirements, do certify that all students have satisfactorily completed the requirements for graduation and present the Class of 2021 to be awarded their diplomas.

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Congratulations to the 256 graduates from the Class of 2021!