Kona students join nationwide demonstrations

  • Hilo High School students raise their hands against gun violence as they participate in National Walkout Day Wednesday on their campus in Hilo. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

  • During a campus walk-out at Cholla High School, on Wednesday in Tucson, Ariz., students hold photographs of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shool shooting victims. (Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star via AP)

  • Kaanoi Rivera-Kelekolio adds a message to a board during a rally at Konawaena High School on Wednesday. (Cameron Miculka/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — In the wake of a shooting that killed 17 people at a Florida high school — and later threats to their own school — a handful of students at Konawaena High School looked to their own campus for an opportunity to ensure students feel safe in their classrooms.

“It was really scary,” said Jaelyn Libarios, 17, of recent threats to Hawaii Island schools, including Konawaena High School. “And I noticed a lot of kids were too scared to even come to school — even though it wasn’t even a direct threat — it was just scary, and people shouldn’t be scared to come to school and learn.”


Along with fellow students Tia Ubando, 18, and Malaea Tolentino-Selke, 17, Libarios said they made the decision to organize a pep rally, coinciding with the day students nationwide took to demonstrations advocating for action on gun violence and school safety.

“Because pep rallies really bring everybody together and it draws attention,” Libarios said. “So, we figured that we’d bring the attention to a positive thing and get their attention on this serious thing.”

At the rally, students had an opportunity to write a message of kindness or gratitude on a billboard. Within minutes, the board was filled with messages declaring, “we are the future,” “be a voice, not an echo” and “you matter.”

Senior Kaanoi Rivera-Kelekolio wrote “always remembered,” in a corner of the board, a declaration, he said, that the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, would never be forgotten.

“Don’t forget about it,” he said. He referenced other shootings like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, in which a man shot 20 children and six adult staff members.

“It’s kind of, like, forgotten after a while,” he said.

Student organizers also prepared “Random Acts of Kindness” to be distributed to students that challenged them to undertake a specific kind act for someone, such as opening the door for them or offering a compliment.

The activity was a hit with students, the organizers said, with some students giving out the Random Acts of Kindness to those outside their immediate circle of friends.

“That kinda sets a chain reaction, so people that they don’t even know start doing it for people that they don’t know, so that starts to spread the word,” said Ubando.

On Wednesday, students coast-to-coast left class at 10 a.m. local time for various protests, marches and demonstrations. They ranged from middle schoolers to college students.

Students at schools throughout Hawaii took part in the walkouts. Gov. David Ige joined kids at Pearl City High School, while Sen. Mazie K. Hirono joined thousands of students — including 22 from Kauai High School — at the U.S. Capitol for the National School Walkout Rally.

On the east side of the island, Teryn Tominaga and around 100 of her Waiakea Intermediate School peers waved signs along Puainako Street.

“It was really cool,” Teryn, 13, said. “At first, we went out and I didn’t see anybody. But then, people started streaming out from the buildings, and I was like, ‘Wow.’ It was just really cool how many people supported this. It felt like we were doing something bigger than we’ve ever done before.”

While students nationwide focused their collective voices on everything from campus safety to gun violence to policy changes, Konawaena High School students said their efforts were focused on making their school a safe, welcoming space.

As students, Ubando said, it’s important for them to take the initiative in advocating for school safety.

“It matters because it really starts with us,” she said. “You can say anything you want, you can do anything, but when you start to act on what you say you’re going to do is when you start making a difference.”

Some students at the rally advocated for larger policy changes, particularly in regard to firearms.

“People always use like, ‘Oh it’s the person doing the killing, not the gun,’ but it can literally be anyone,” said junior Haley Roback. “It doesn’t have to be your typical crazy person with all these problems, it can be an everyday person. It’s the gun that’s the problem, because they have access to it.”

Roback called for stricter control on firearms, saying she believes semi-automatic and automatic weapons should not be available to the public and that officials should take steps similar to those in other countries that have stricter laws regarding gun possession.

She also noted the role students have in the national conversation about school safety, saying there’s a lot of change happening now because of students’ response to the shooting in Florida.

“They’re speaking out and they’re getting a hold of the right political leaders so that their voices can actually be heard,” Roback said. “So, I feel like movements like this should continue until change is actually in place.”

The walkouts Wednesday were among several protests planned for coming weeks. The March for Our Lives rally for school safety is expected to draw hundreds of thousands to the nation’s capital on March 24, its organizers say.


Another round of school walkouts is planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado. Local events are also planned for both dates.

WHT intern reporter Gita Howard and Tribune-Herald reporter Kirsten Johnson contributed to this report.

    1. reply to March 15, 2018 7:04 pm

      He is alive anyway. He doesn’t need a gun.

      1. ghost March 15, 2018 7:10 pm

        America doesn’t have a bill of needs, we have a Bill of Rights.

        1. reply to March 15, 2018 7:12 pm

          Correct on that one!…I agree.

  1. diverdave March 15, 2018 7:59 am

    I have continually said, it is SOCIAL MEDIA that these kids spend a
    large part of their days on, and is the most contributory reason for all
    the violence in the schools, NOT GUNS.
    we should make guns, of all kinds, harder to get. But, it is the access
    to SOCIAL MEDIAS that can reach 10s of thousands of children and
    influence their non-discerning minds within seconds of “posting”. For
    many children, 5-6 hours a day are spent making poor put-down comments
    of classmates, posting of compromising pictures, and putting out
    unfounded lies. Kids are not only committing crimes against others
    because of these posts, but are committing suicide due to them.
    time to take away these venues to minors who have not formed the
    maturity to properly know proper etiquette on these forums.

    to today: “Morgan Roof, the younger sister of the Charleston shooter
    Dylann Roof, was arrested after taking two weapons to school and posting
    to Snapchat that she hoped students protesting against gun violence in a
    nationwide walkout “get shot.”
    to put away the cell phones, and start cracking a book instead. There
    should be cell phones for kids that only make phone calls, NOT attack
    others in the most malicious of ways.

  2. NevahHappen March 15, 2018 8:21 am

    “It was really scary,” said Jaelyn Libarios, 17, of recent threats to Hawaii Island schools, including Konawaena High School. “

    And to think, it was almost certainly one of these snowflakes, or some liberal adult that made the threats to further the narrative and get media hype.

  3. onceawarrior March 15, 2018 9:11 am

    The actions of the students are commendable.
    Safety in schools is their immediate concern.
    Civil obedience is for everyone.
    A turning point is needed.

    1. reply to March 15, 2018 7:04 pm

      A picture speaks more than a thousand words. I hope the mentally challenged from the left can learn something from this picture.

    1. NevahHappen March 15, 2018 1:25 pm

      Oh look, the euro-weenie hiding here away from the muzzie hordes in France is posting fake news from one of the lost leftist sources on the interwebs.

      1. naeporue March 15, 2018 5:13 pm

        World Happiness Report 2018: Why Is US, Ranked 18th, Sadder Than Before?

        1. reply to March 15, 2018 7:11 pm

          I’ve been in most European countries and nothing compares with US quality of life. All the EU citizens are gloomy and lost most of their freedoms.

          I would be even happier if the liberal democrats would increase their critical thinking.

          1. NevahHappen March 15, 2018 7:52 pm

            He is a French surrender monkey, not American. he hates this country buy prefers it here than to his home that allowed hordes of muslims in.

            So, how would the euro-weenie like to travel into one of the “no-go” zones in Paris without armed escort?

          2. naeporue March 16, 2018 9:46 am

            This is not too relevant to the topic but see here:

            On Reddit forums that ask “What’s a dead giveaway that someone is
            American?” one trait comes up over and over again: big, toothy grins.
            Here’s how one Reddit user in Finland put it:
            When a stranger on the street smiles at you:
            a. you assume he is drunk
            b. he is insane
            c. he’s an American

    2. reply to March 15, 2018 7:08 pm

      Make another chart without suicides (you can NEVER outlaw suicides and how they can kill themselves). Exclude also the liberal democrat bastions of Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore and Ferguson. After all that, US is one of the most peaceful developed nations in the world.

    3. Do Mo March 16, 2018 6:42 pm

      The graphic drives home the fact that car accidents, cancer, diabetes and medical mistakes are far more deadly than guns. If we focused on any of those issues and made even a 10% improvement in lives saved, it would be a far greater achievement than trying to legislate the number of rounds of ammunitions, length of the barrel and firing rate of any weapon that legal gun owners have. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9496b4dc3fb7c9df59ec926c38d8d13f05bb0f15303bd1e12329b1b3668e45fd.jpg

  4. Kaipo Wall March 15, 2018 10:17 pm

    None of these kids would know what the NRA really is , or what it does , if it jumped up and bit them on the okole . Poor little minions of a corrupt Leftist anti 2nd Amendment agenda .
    Sorry kids , law biding ,legal gun owners will never relinquish their firearms , or their 2nd Amendment rights , no matter what or how the corrupt politicians might be able to change the laws to reflect . America is not Australia or Britain . These walk-outs are inspired by anti-Trump , anti NRA subversives . Go pound sand .

  5. Big ideas March 16, 2018 6:19 am

    Politicians never let an opportunity go by to use kids as pawns….NICE!

    While you’re at it teach them the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

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