It is 2005. HBA kindergartener Davis Tsuha’s backpack obscures all but his sneakers teetering on the curb of the designated pick up area. He readjusts the straps to support the weight of his bag. Among the clutter of glue sticks and crayons, Tsuha carries home his very first Hawaii Baptist Academy yearbook.

Meanwhile, two miles up the road at the high school campus, senior Aaron Kondo rises from his seat in the bleachers and walks past rows of seniors stomping and cheering him on as he is named Mr. HBA at the yearbook assembly. Stepping up to the stage, Kondo receives his last yearbook as a HBA student.

Twelve years have gone by since that day, and Kondo is now Tsuha’s teacher at HBA. Tsuha will graduate this year with the class of 2017. As a math teacher, Kondo has had Tsuha in a number of classes throughout Tsuha’s high school career and has become a mentor to Tsuha.

Tsuha, who is currently taking AP Calculus, said, “Though I don’t have him as a teacher anymore, Kondo is always willing to help me, tutor me, and answer any questions I have. He is always willing to help me study for a test or understand the harder problems on homework.”

The two have taken similar paths through high school, participating in NHS and cross country, and both were nominees for the Mr. HBA award.

“I feel like Kondo was once in my shoes and he is one of the few teachers who really knows me,” Tsuha said. “He has been with me through my hardships and successes. Kondo has been one of my biggest role models. He never gave up on me even when I gave up on myself. He taught me the importance of being a part of a team and building up relationships, especially with those around you.”

Kondo, a cross country coach, first met Tsuha when he coached his older sisters at HBA. “I’ve been Davis’s cross country coach for the past six years. His sisters were all on the cross country team, so I have known him for a little longer than six years. I got to know him well because Davis was in my cross country group a lot when he was in seventh grade,” Kondo recalled.

As Kondo watches Tsuha prepare to depart HBA just as he himself once did, he offers Tsuha some advice: “I would hope that Davis finds things to do that he enjoys in college. If his schedule can handle it, I encourage him to take electives that interest him. Make friends and cook them local food. If those friends are from Hawaii, have them try vegan food instead. Davis did that for a little while.” Then Kondo added, referring to his girlfriend, “Nina would say to join a martial arts club too. Listen to Nina.”