Molokai High School senior Michael Kikukawa recently received his acceptance into next year’s freshmen class at Harvard University.
Congratulations, Michael, on being the first Molokai High grad to attend the esteemed Ivy League university in Cambridge, Mass.
Having worked with both his parents — Phillip Kikukawa at Molokai Middle School and Sue Forbes at Kualapu’u Elementary School (now teaching math at the middle school) — and having taught his brother Luke and sister Genevieve, I am not surprised at Michael’s success. Both parents are accomplished athletes and educators who work every day to support Molokai students.
Over the past few years, Michael has been mentioned in 20 different stories on The Molokai News. Most are simple notices on the MHS honor roll. But he has gained attention for placing in the 100-meter breaststroke as a swimmer for the MHS swim team; earning first place at the Hawaii History Day competition to advance to the national competition; participating in the Maui Schools Science and Engineering Fair and attending the Akamai Wall Street Field Study in New York City.
A story about Michael appears in today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser, written by Education Writer Mary Vorsino. Because the Star-Advertiser requires an online subscription to view the full text, I am reprinting the story here:
(Honolulu Star-Advertiser, December 24, 2012)
Senior is Molokai High’s first to be admitted to Harvard
By Mary Vorsino
Molokai High School will send one of its 65 graduating seniors to Harvard University next fall.
The state Department of Education said Michael Kiku¬kawa is believed to be the first Molokai High student in the school’s 84-year history to be admitted to the prestigious Ivy League campus.
Kikukawa, who was born and raised on Molokai, plans to study pre-law.
“I really wanted to get a new experience,” said the 17-year-old, who started thinking about the possibility of attending Harvard in 10th grade.
He said he hopes he will inspire his peers to aim high.
“I wanted to kind of set a precedent and show the other students that it was possible,” he said.
Kikukawa’s family is no stranger to the Ivy League.
His mother, Susan Forbes-Kiku¬kawa, attended Dartmouth College. His paternal grandmother attended Yale University, and his paternal grandfather went to Cornell University.
Kikukawa said he was notified Dec. 13 that he had been accepted to Harvard as part of the early-decision program.
Not surprisingly, his parents were elated.
“My mom actually cried tears of joy,” he said.
Now Kikukawa is beginning the work of finding scholarships to help pay for college.
His parents, who are both teachers, have also agreed to help as much as they can.
Kikukawa said he applied to Harvard with little expectation of being accepted.
“I’d always looked at Harvard as this place of excellence,” he said. “I didn’t think I had a chance, really.”
Molokai High Principal Stanford Hao said the school has sent students to Yale and Brown University. But Harvard always seemed out of reach.
Of Kikukawa, Hao said, “I’m excited for him. I think it’s well deserved.”
Kikukawa started asking what it would take to get into Harvard when he was a sophomore, said Earl Naka¬mura, a retired Molokai High teacher and vice principal who volunteers at the school.
Nakamura, who mentors students and helps them navigate through college admissions, jumped online to get Harvard’s requirements and reached out to the university.
It was immediately clear Kiku¬kawa would have to show he wasn’t just a stellar student, but a well-rounded person.
Nakamura said Kiku¬kawa has clearly demonstrated that. The senior volunteered with Mufi Hannemann’s congressional campaign during the summer, and in the Governor’s Office. He also attended summer courses at ‘Iolani School.
During the school year, Kiku¬kawa loaded up on Advanced Placement courses and earned college credits through the Running Start program at the University of Hawaii.
Nakamura said since Kiku¬kawa’s acceptance was announced, other Molokai students have already come up to him to say they want to set a course for Harvard, too.
“It’s like a door open for other kids coming up,” Naka¬mura said.