Disaster-tested Pahoa High students need help with prom

  • Pahoa Vice Principal Annie Henbest, left, and junior Jaylynn Kaawaloa-Alidon pose Tuesday with the crowns that will be used to crown the prom queen and princess at Pahoa High’s upcoming prom. (Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald)

Pahoa students have persevered through the 2018 Kilauea eruption, Hurricane Iselle and the COVID-19 pandemic, and after nearly a decade of turmoil, they’re ready to celebrate their final years of high school.

But before the confetti falls, they need a little help from the community.


A fundraiser is taking place to help finance this year’s Pahoa High School junior and senior prom.

As of Tuesday, the GoFundMe for the students had raised $2,955 of its $4,000 goal.

“Our school serves a community of underprivileged students that have been through so much the last couple of years, with the pandemic and volcano,” said Pahoa High English teacher Michelle Lindsay-Lewis, who launched the GoFundMe account for the students. “But they’re still coming together, going to school, and they’re going to graduate, and they have great determination like I’ve never seen, and that really needs to be celebrated.”

Prom funding is normally handled by the school’s junior class over a two-year period, but with the COVID-19 pandemic and a change in leadership, the students had just one year to raise the funds.

“They did a great job and raised close to $1,200, but it just wasn’t enough,” Lindsay-Lewis said. “At $4,000, that would cover most of our costs and the senior students’ tickets. Right now, the kiddos are buying tickets, but the plan is, if we can get to that point, we’ll give them the money back so they can use it to purchase clothes and other things for prom.”

The event will be held April 29 at the Pahoa Recreation Center with a theme of “Betting It All,” featuring a Las Vegas-like glitz-and-glamour setting complete with casino-style games, a blacklight dance floor, and a section for dining and prom court awards.

“We’ve started setting things up and have the crowns for the prince, princess, queen and king,” said Jaylynn Kaawaloa-Alidon, a junior who is helping with the event. “Prom is kind of a reward for getting through the year, where you have this big event and a big celebration with all your friends.”

The group is seeking other donations as well like glassware, dinnerware, snacks, prizes, batteries for lights, and any other items that can be raffled off as prizes during the event.

“The funding will be going to some of the games and decorations and other things for the seniors, like a gift for their graduation,” Kaawaloa-Alidon said. “I’m just looking forward to the seniors having as much fun as they can during their last year and getting to be out during prom, where they can be more outgoing and really show themselves.”

With 47 donations so far, the group is closing in on its goal, and contributions can be made at https://gofund.me/9a99ddad

“We are already blown away by the generosity of this community. It’s awesome, but we do need a little more to make the night special for the kids,” Lindsay-Lewis said. “We really believe that every student deserves a magical prom experience just because it is such a core memory, and we’d be grateful for any contributions that we can get.”

Email Grant Phillips at gphillips@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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