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Lifestyle // Island Matters
Mufi Hannemann

Campbell Earns National Honor

Despite the sugar industry folding many years ago, the Ewa plain continues to be an area in transition as it undergoes a series of rapid changes and developments.

Through the years, new housing units have sprung up at Ewa by Gentry and West Loch. Of late, developments at Ocean Pointe and Hoakalei are now part of what is known as Oahu’s new suburban growth center. Luxury homes, major retail commercial centers, trendy restaurants, modern golf courses and schools are now very much a part of the Ewa landscape.

Although these changes are said to be for the better, accompanying them are almost always myriad challenges and issues in moving toward a better quality of life.

The one constant factor in the midst of all this growth has been the growing sense of appreciation and gratitude for the quality of education provided by the state’s largest public high school in the area.

Once known for primarily educating disadvantaged youths, James Campbell High School (named after the real estate tycoon credited with introducing sugar to Ewa) has evolved and matured into one of the best high schools in the state.

Says Kurt Favella, lifelong Ewa resident and 1986 Campbell graduate, “Many of us who are die-hard Sabers are so proud and pleased with the progress our alma mater has made to keep up with the times to educate our teens.”

The latest academic honor for this 51-year-old school is that Campbell High was recognized as one of 11 “bronze medal schools” in Hawaii cited in the 2013 U.S. News & World Report‘s Best High Schools rankings – usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/hawaii.

“We strive to enable all of our students to be college- and career-ready and prepare them for life after high school as we focus on closing the achievement gap,” says principal Naomi Takamori.

Takamori succeeded former principal Gail Awakuni, Hawaii’s first recipient of the coveted National Principal of the Year Award in 2005 and who was instrumental in laying an excellent foundation for her successors to build upon.

“Morale has increased, gangs have nearly dissipated and community support is rising,” says Takamori. Campbell is one of a handful of institutions in the United States selected as a model school in AVID, a program that encourages students to attend college. Campbell is raising the bar to create a global learning atmosphere.

“Thanks to our affiliations with leading international organizations, some students are traveling the globe from China to South America to gain cultural experiences and broaden their outlook on the world around them,”Takamori says.

In 2007, the school became the first public school in Hawaii to gain the status of International Baccalaureate.

The school specializes in a variety of academies that include television media production, engineering and industrial technology, marine biology and more that incorporate cutting-edge technology. Take molecular gastronomy mixed with culinary arts, for example.

“Our student chefs will create a dish in which they change one or more items into gelatin, foam or spheres that burst in your mouth. We invite award-winning chefs to judge our students as the kids showcase their delectable dishes each May,” says chemistry teacher Carolyn Young, who combines her projects with culinary arts instructor Julie Morihara-Itagaki.

Campbell also is enjoying unparalleled success in athletics. This year, the cross-country track team took second in the OIA Varsity Championships. Last year, both softball and baseball (JV and Varsity) teams won the OIA. This season, the Sabers football program headed by English teacher and head coach Amosa Amosa, Campbell ’84 and former UH football star, is one of the top four varsity teams in the highly competitive OIA Red division, and the JV program has been to the OIA championship game three times in the last five years.

“In addition to producing scholar-athletes, our sports program is now extremely competitive across the board,” says athletic director Sam Delos Reyes.

Campbell’s top-notch academic programs, combined with the staff’s innovative ways of learning, are constantly creating excitement on campus.

It’s no wonder Principal Takamori and her team are enjoying the kind of success that has her school ranked in the top five of the “Strive HI” statewide initiative, thereby proving once again that there is no substitute for hard work, dedication and commitment to achieve.

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