Konawaena High School

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Konawaena High School
81-1043 Konawaena School Rd.
Kealakekua Hawaii 96750

United States
Coordinates 19°30′34″N 155°54′54″W / 19.50944°N 155.91500°W / 19.50944; -155.91500
Type Public
Motto Achievement, character and success for life
Established 1921
Principal Shawn S. Suzuki
Grades 9-12
Campus Rural
Campus type Outdoor
Color(s) Green      White     
Athletics conference Big Island Interscholastic Federation
Affiliation State of Hawaii
Vice Principal Glen Gray
Mascot Wildcat

Konawaena High School is a public school located in the community of Kealakekua, Kona District, Hawaii County, Hawaii, United States. Konawaena means "the center of the leeward side" in the Hawaiian Language.[1]


In 1921, a grammar school in Kona established its first 9th grade class.[2] The school continued to establish 10th, 11th, and 12th grade classes as the years went on. The first graduating class was the Class of 1925. It was originally the only high school in the Kona District until Kealakehe High School was built in 1997,[3] and serves rural South Kona.

The campus originally consisted of the original buildings built in the 1910s and 1920s, many of which were replaced in the 1970s by the newer two story C, D, E, G, F, R, and S Buildings. In the late 1950s, the administration and library buildings were added. In the early 1960s, the upper campus was built along with a new cafeteria (A building). The upper campus was used as the elementary school, until the new elementary school opened down the street in 1999. In 1968, the shop buildings were added. In the 1970s, the newer two story four wing C, D, E, G and F buildings replaced the old three wing building. Around the same time, Julian Yates field was added along with the R and S buildings replacing old ones, and the new state of the art Ellison Onizuka Gymnasium opened (N building). A year later, a new locker room and band room was built right above Julian Yates field (Q Building). The only two original buildings remaining on the campus today are the Ag building and one on the upper campus, now Konawaena Middle School.

Throughout the first 40 years, Konawaena operated on what is known as the "coffee schedule," where summer vacation was shifted to September through November to allow children to help with harvesting coffee cherries. The coffee schedule made it impossible for Kona to field a football team because potential players were picking coffee. Child labor laws contributed to the demise of the coffee schedule, which was ended in 1966.

Today Konawaena has successfully grown to encompass a middle school and an elementary school Kealakekua.[4] The total school population is around 1,020 students. In 1995 it held the most students in the whole state, a total of 3,900 in the high school alone. Altogether, that same year there were about 5,000 on the campus grades K-12. The current principal is Shawn S. Suzuki, former band teacher and vice-principal. Suzuki replaced Dr. James Dumaguin who died in 2005. Konawaena High School's rival is Kealakehe High School.

Notable alumni[edit]

Ellison Onizuka Gymnasium

Solar Challenge[edit]

In 1990, a solar car team from Konawaena was the first high school team to complete the World Solar Challenge. The 1996 movie Race the Sun, starring Halle Berry, Steve Hogan and James Belushi was loosely based on this story.[5] Bill Woerner, the real-life teacher who led the team, later founded the charter school West Hawaii Explorations Academy.[6]

In the media[edit]

Konawaena was the setting for the 1998 independent film Beyond Paradise.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Lookup of "konawaena" on Hawaiian Place Names
  2. ^ Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior for the Fiscal Year 1921, U.S. Department of Interior, 1921, Page 159
  3. ^ "Activities help Kealakehe grow" in Honolulu Star-Bulletin, March 24, 2003
  4. ^ Konawaena Elementary School
  5. ^ Race the Sun (1996) at the Internet Movie Database
  6. ^ "A Brief History of WHEA" on West Hawaii Explorations Academy web site

External links[edit]