Kaiser has officially canceled homecoming. Due to the continued COVID-19 pandemic, the Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) announced in January the cancellation of all public school social events for the remainder of the year. Principal Justin Mew made a similar school-wide declaration a day later, naming proms, class days, and even assemblies as cut activities. Although homecoming is long overdue, any hope for late celebrations is now completely extinguished.
This isn’t the first time Kaiser has canceled homecoming. As recently as 2017, the football season, including the homecoming football game, was canceled after near-violent altercations between parents and coaches. Despite the complications, homecoming’s other events proceeded, with the homecoming spirit week, assembly, and dance drawing more students than ever. Although the incidents in 2017 overwhelmed students and families with anger, they could still enjoy homecoming in some fashion. But this year, the Kaiser community has no respite from the monotony of the pandemic.
Kaiser students involved in 2020 homecoming proceedings valued the experience. The homecoming football game is typically the highlight of the festivities, and the Kaiser football team practices hard “to bring home a win on homecoming,” senior and Kaiser linebacker Xavier Aki said. In turn, the yearbook records the moments of homecoming and the emotion inspired. “The crowd was really supportive [of the team], and cheering on and everything,” yearbook staff member Angelika Agra said.
Now, they feel an emptiness from homecoming’s absence. “I was training, I was lifting…and we were all hoping for a season,” Aki said. Although the football season itself was canceled, the players had still held out for a single homecoming game—which they were denied. Nor was there any emotion for the yearbook staff to capture. “Homecoming was a big part of the student life section,” said Agra, and the gap in the yearbook was prominent, reflecting how much impact homecoming had on student lives.
Homecoming centers around the return of the alumni, and they feel equal pain at the loss of homecoming as the students. Despite not having attended Kaiser for so long, their memories of Kaiser and the “sense of community with each other—especially when showing school pride at games” remains strong, Class of ‘87 graduate Lara Trinidad said. For alumni who feel a connection to their high school, “the purpose of homecoming [is] showing Cougar Pride,” said Trinidad. Displays of that pride have been few and far between this past year.
The Kaiser community can only hope for the revival of homecoming next school year. Once COVID-19 restrictions become an unpleasant memory, football games and dances can resume on school campuses. Though they will no longer be students, the current seniors look forward to coming home to Kaiser as alumni, joining the ranks of many before them.