Since I was asked to write for my Pearl City High School's 50th Anniversary Book (1971-2021) by my former teacher, Mrs. Arlene Aranita who I reconnected at a funeral for a close family friend, Mr. Eric Kanemoto who was my soccer coach, Cub Scout Master, and Pearl City Highlands Intermediate School teacher, and my dad's really close friend, I thought I could hit two goals in one strike by writing about it in this blog. For those of you unfamiliar with Hawaii, Pearl City High School is located in Pearl City on the island of Oahu, State of Hawaii. The draft of my article is as follows:
The education and life skills taught by our teachers in our public grade schools are extremely valuable. High School is the last phase for us before we enter the "real world." In the Fall of 1989, at thirteen years old, I entered Pearl City High School, home of the mighty Chargers. I was excited to be a part of an institution that has helped to develop productive citizens in the professional sectors, trades, and non-profit arena. Our school has also produced politicians, entrepreneurs, movie stars, musicians, and influencers in other creative fields.
Many of my childhood friends from soccer, scouting, and other community organizations that I was involved with attended Pearl City High School, a number of whom I still keep in touch today. While a Charger, I played for the varsity soccer team for four years, played the trumpet in the marching band for four years, volunteered as a member of the Interact Club, served as a member of the Computer Club, participated in an after-school math group led by a math teacher, and was a participant of the Homecoming Court in 1989 and Senior Prom Court in 1992. I expanded my network with students of different backgrounds and interests. Public school gave me an opportunity to learn from personalities who faced different challenges in their lives, which helped me tremendously years later when I became a lawyer in 2001 and a politician and businessperson in 2002.
Besides building relationships with people, I learned about many subjects such as social studies, history, English, math, science, computers, music, and Japanese language. My best grades were in social studies, followed by English. I was average in math and science. My worse grades were some Ds and Fs from band and my last year in Japanese language, which caused me some worries in regards to my chances of getting accepted into the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the only university I applied for. Fortunately, I got accepted, where I received my bachelor's degree in political science, and then continued on with my education at Gonzaga University School of Law where I attained my law degree. I sincerely wanted to learn the language of my ancestors but remembering the strokes to write kanji was challenging for me. As for band and marching band, well, I kind of joined them because that's where most of the student body hung out, not to mention the cute girls.
Some of my teachers in high school were extremely influential in my life. During the first semester of my Freshman year, my social studies teacher, Mr. Wagner had us read portions of U.S. Senator and World War II veteran Daniel K. Inouye's biography, which sparked my interest in equal rights and politics. All of my English teachers such as Mrs. Aranita, Mrs. Chun, and Mrs. Abe were strict in a good way and very inspiring. They truly wanted the best in us. English teacher, Mrs. Abe recommended that I audition for the Honolulu Theatre for Youth, which I did and was chosen to perform in plays with my fellow cast members before Intermediate schools around Oahu, Hawaii. I ended up acting in theatre at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a few local television commercials and programs.
Through the inspiration of my English teachers, I continue to read and write to improve my writing skills, a lifelong process that's still occurring. Besides writing for my work in law and government affairs, I wrote two unpublished novels. The first is Princess Cupcake, which takes us on a journey of a young politician, Ken who leaves his body while he sleeps to travel to a realm of the dead where souls are trapped because they were unable to accomplish things while they were alive. While there, he falls in love with a young woman, Kaylee and becomes a target of a dark force upon discovering the secrets of what happens after you die and how the living can affect the power of the dead. My second unpublished novel is Princess & the Terrorist. Struggling with the new realities of living in a war-torn Iraq caused by the American invaders two months earlier, 12-year-old Mustafa becomes friends with Amira who is the same age as him, while recovering at a hospital after they were nearly killed by a suicide bomb. They're torn apart when Amira’s well-to-do family yanks her out of the hospital to flee Iraq to the United Kingdom. With both of his parents killed by the war and no one to care for him, Mustafa gets placed in an abusive orphanage. Through the help of his best friend, Mustafa runs away from the orphanage with a five-year-old boy he protects from a gang of older bullies. In consideration for shelter and a salary, they join the Freedom Fighters of Iraq, a militia rebelling against the Americans, Iraqi government, and their coalition. Years later, Mustafa and Amira, now in their teens bump into each other on a street in Baghdad, Iraq. They fall deeply in love with each other. However, they’re no longer the innocent kids who met at the hospital, daydreaming of flying away to enchanted places on a magic carpet. In a war destroying everything it touches; its grips are quickly closing on Mustafa and Amira. Creative writing and storytelling has played a huge role in comforting my soul.
I really enjoyed playing for the Pearl City High School Chargers' varsity soccer team. We were lucky to always be one of the top teams in the State of Hawaii, consistently winning the Oahu Interscholastic Association title and continuously playing in the semifinals for the Hawaii High School Athletic Association's state championship tournament, even coming in second place in a state championship match.
An important life lesson that classes and sports taught me is how to handle losing, a much more valuable lesson than all the wins I achieved. In life, you'll get knocked down but you have to get back up, grow from your failures, and keep going. My Pearl City High School soccer coach Ron Mata told us to be tenacious like bulldogs that bite and never let go. If you have a vision of what you want in your life and in the world, you have to put in a lot of work, thousands of hours of work. Every day, attack your small goals, which will add up over time. In time, you'll be able to achieve some big wins!
Happiness is what I wish for my fellow Pearl City High School classmates, alumni, teachers, and staff. As best as you can, don't be fixated on things you can't control. Rather, focus on what you can control. Keep developing your mind, body, and soul. Always be grateful for all the good things in your life. Spend time with positive people who lift you up. Cherish your time with your loved ones. If you have visions of what you want, go for them now!
With Warmest Aloha,
Jon Riki Karamatsu
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