English Learner department recognizes departing seniors at parent event


Na Hoku Staff

Jianrong Li read his poem “Me,” which included excerpts from literature he read in class, such as “The Alchemist” and “Dream Deferred.” He ended with the line from “The Alchemist”: “Man is his own star.” Li said prior to reading that he “didn’t know how to respond to others” when he first moved to Hawaii, but he grew in confidence and now is studying Cantonese and Japanese, on top of English and his native Mandarin.

Na Hoku Staff

Students and parents in the English Learner program at Moanalua High School celebrated the accomplishments of its seniors April 28 with oral presentations, music, and food in the school library.

EL Program Coordinator Maria Gamvas told the group of about 50 people that when she was in high school, she met another student who spoke another language, but that did not interfere with them becoming friends and remaining close to this day. She praised the students for their accomplishments, noting that Moanalua High School supports nearly 80 students whose first language is not English.

“We actually have students who [collectively] speak 22 different languages here,” she said.

EL teacher Jill Tengan, who is leaving the department at the end of this year to helm the dance program full time next year, marveled at how much they have grown over the years she has watched them. She told the students that the remaining teachers–Brandy Chang, Margit Messner, and Gamvas–“love and care about you” and will continue to support them.

Students Mark Anthony Olipani and Junwen Wang were the masters of ceremonies. They introduced five seniors, who read aloud a piece from their senior portfolios. The seniors were Jianrong Li, Yunyi He, Jericho Mendoza, Peiwen Xie, and Emma (Yuxin) Zhou. (See photo gallery below.)

Underclassmen also performed. Siluo Huang and XinQiao Zheng sang a duet, Olipani did a solo, and Yujin Kim, Khanoon Phookhung and Soutjai Kommavong read essays and reflections.

The Micronesian Club reprised their dance from the May Day Assembly earlier in the week to cap off the festivities.

Messner praised the students for being brave and “getting out of their comfort zone” in order to feel comfortable speaking English as their second, third, or even fourth language.  This came about because they had “showed up [to school] and worked hard.” She acknowledged that some of the students have had to take on adult responsibilities such as translating for their parents, caring for siblings, or working a part-time job. She encouraged the underclassmen to join clubs and practice speaking to other classmates to find areas of common interest.

“I’m so proud of you,” she said.