homepage logo

Drive-by Lei Ceremony planned for four Kamehameha Schools graduates from West Maui

By Staff | May 21, 2020

Karsyn Pupunu will attend Weber State in Ogden, Utah.

LAHAINA – Graduation 2020 for many will be a singular experience, with celebratory activities a creative exercise rather than traditional.

The COVID-19 challenge has not been easy, but our collective human spirit has found new and innovative ways to recognize the worth of our students and scholars.

Specifically, there are four West Side seniors that deserve acknowledgement for their perseverance, determination and commitment to their education.

The path to knowledge on school days for Karsyn Pupunu, Ross Panlasigui, Jayda Lum Lung and Alexa Villa-Rhivers was a 42-mile trek along the shoreline of Honoapi’ilani Highway, following the hazardous roadway across the Pali through the central valley, up Haleakala Highway to the Kamehameha Schools Maui (KSM) campus in Pukalani.

They have braved road closures, fires, auto accidents, gridlock and coastal flooding; a testament to their conviction. The Coronavirus may have road-blocked their graduation plans this year, but it has not shut them down.

Ross Panlasigui will attend Central Arizona College in the fall.

E hele mau ka ho’ike (the show must go on)!

Michele Vierra-Pupunu is the Hawaiian Studies kumu at Maui Preparatory Academy and mother to Karsyn. She is their most ardent advocate.

“These Lahaina students dedicated their years of going the distance, and I just thought it might be nice to include them in our community news, as they are worthy of being highlighted as seniors, too.”

“I know the Lahaina News always showcases so many of our Lahainaluna and Maui Prep grads, and I just thought it might be nice to also include some of our other sons and daughters,” Vierra-Pupunu explained.

Seeking to carve out a fine future for themselves as responsible human beings, they are all headed to college with degrees in mind and goals to achieve.

Alexa Villa-Rhivers is heading to Grand Canyon University.

Karsyn will be attending Weber State in Ogden, Utah.

“I plan on getting my business degree, so that I am able to come back home to Maui and start my career. I also plan on getting an undergrad in construction,” he advised.

At KSM, Karsyn played football since the ninth grade – “one year on JV and three years on varsity. I played receiver my three years on varsity and quarterback my JV year.”

He plans to continue his athletic career playing for the Weber Wildcats.

His parents, Michele Vierra-Pupunu and Kolo “Mike” Pupunu, are his role models.

Jayda Lum Lung will begin courses at the University of Hawaii Maui College.

“Their hard work and dedication of always trying to put more than enough on the table is what inspires me. I am truly grateful for amazing parents,” he confided to the Lahaina News.

Another KSM athlete, Ross Panlasigui, will be attending Central Arizona College in the fall, majoring in Radiology and playing for Argo’s baseball team.

“Alexa (Villa-Rhivers) will be attending Grand Canyon University to major in Advertising & Graphic Design, and minoring in Business Management, hoping to start her own business one day,” Vierra-Pupunu said.

Jayda Lum Lung is Karsyn’s cousin.

“Jayda will be attending UHMC to finish her liberals, then transferring to UH Hilo to major in Hawaiian Studies/Language and get a certificate in Early Childhood Learning with the hopes to one day be a Punana Leo Kumu,” her aunty said.

“Sometime in the beginning of my senior year,” Jayda observed, “I was watching the news and was seeing that there were a shortage of Punana Leo kumu. I’ve always wanted to learn how to speak fluent Hawaiian, so I thought maybe this could be a possible career choice for me. After almost a full school year, I am choosing this path. I am excited to see where it takes me.”

Her parents are Jareth and Helen Lum Lung.

“The Pupunu’s, Lum Lungs and Panlasigui ‘Ohana will be celebrating the graduates by having a drive-by Lei Ceremony for all three of them at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 23, at 4648 Lower Honoapi’ilani Road while practicing social distancing,” Vierra-Pupunu announced.

With all the lei you will receive, the Lahaina News wishes you a hearty congratulations and the bright future you have earned.