Ever since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, HBA students have experienced many modifications and cancellations to traditional community building events at school.

The middle and high schools’ annual Spirit Week and grade-wide camps at Camp Pu’u Kahea have served as the biggest venues for building community and belonging at HBA. It is these two events that many students miss the most. Sophomore class president Riley Lorenzo points out that it’s been hard trying to build community amidst pandemic restrictions. “[I miss] Camp the most, because we have missed it for two years now, going on three. It was just an opportunity for us to all bond together as a grade, but we weren’t able to have that opportunity,” she explained. The sophomores have been trying out various activities in replacement of camp, like joint homerooms, joint chapels, and having virtual competitions. Taylor Malinger, another member of the sophomore class council, said, “I miss Spirit Week the most because currently our activities lack unity. Now, the grades are all separated, when before everyone was together.” 

With online classes and stay-at-home orders this past year, students have had fewer opportunities to interact with their classmates outside of class. Bible teacher and sophomore advisor Erin Schlittenhart believes in-person interactions are what most people want. “Because if you just wanted to go to an online school, you would have bonded through online school, right. But we want to build each other emotionally, spiritually, physically, emotionally, all those that we talked about,” she said. Sophomore Hannah Cheng also thinks school-wide events are essential to community building. “It bonds the grades together. [They] develop class unity, and also unity with other grades, and with that we can develop an expanded social life,” she said

In spite of these challenges, this year’s high school student council is determined to help students have a memorable year. Student council president Aaron Omon said “We are planning to stick with a similar format to what the Student Council did last year, having the grades make videos for their Pepper Squads and class cheers. While we may still have to separate the Spirit Week assemblies by grade levels for social distancing, we are hoping to combine [certain] grades instead of having just one grade per assembly.” He added, “We are also trying to hold a Winter Banquet since we couldn’t do it last year.  Our planned theme is a Hawaiian/Luau Christmas which we will likely hold in Ko’olau Ballrooms.” Omon also points out that his council’s plans will have to be flexible. “If the situation gets worse, we will try our best to work around the obstacles of the pandemic by having creative alternative ideas at hand. Our goals are always centered around school unity and making this year a truly special one,” he said.