Meet the First Waianae High School Graduate Admitted to Harvard University Since 1980

This month, Kahunui Foster begins her freshman year at Harvard University—the first Waianae High School graduate admitted to Harvard since 1980. Foster was part of Waianae High’s media program, Searider Productions. While the college admission rate for Waianae graduates is far below the state average, nearly 100 percent of Searider Productions’ class of 2014 got into college. But only Foster—one of three daughters raised by a very proud single mother—is headed for the Ivies.


This month, Kahunui Foster begins her freshman year at Harvard University—the first Waianae High School graduate admitted to Harvard since 1980.

Photo: David Croxford

I NEVER FELT any pressure from anybody to go to college. More so I was made to feel that if you can keep learning, keep learning, that this is a good thing in your life.

MY YOUNGER SISTER graduated high school a year early—she graduated with me, actually. She’s going to Leeward Community College to do their culinary program. My mom is actually finishing her bachelor’s degree right now. She goes to UH West Oahu.

MY FAVORITE SUBJECT is English. There’s no subject that I hate. I’m just terrible in math. It always took me extra effort in that particular subject. I wasn’t solid in trigonometry at all.

I DID GET an A in trig. I always made sure I got the A. For the tests, they give you a study guide. So I just studied exactly what’s on the study guide and made sure I knew how to do those types of problems. And then hoped for the best.

I GOT MY FIRST tuition bill, and it’s for a little bit over $30,000. That’s for one term, and there are two terms a year. Harvard is a need-based school. They look at your estimated family contribution, and whatever your family can’t pay, Harvard pays the rest. My estimated family contribution is zero, so Harvard is basically paying themselves 30 grand.

THAT’S THE KIND of environment I’m going into. They’ll help you however they can, and they don’t want anything from you but to learn, and graduate, and go out and do amazing things—which they can then attach their name to, because you graduated from Harvard.

THEY ARE REALLY making it easy not to stress over anything, except the enormous workload they give you. Because they will do that.

I LOVE IT in Waianae. It’s nice to have that home base of people that actually want good for you, and that actually care about you. It’s not fun to leave. But I know I can come back in four years and possibly benefit the community, come back and have something to offer.

RIGHT NOW my major is visual and environmental studies, but I’m hoping that after my first year my major will change. I hope that I’ve seen enough to want to do something new. I’m going into it with the mindset that I like everything, and I’m going to try whatever I can.

I DOUBT in four years I’m going to graduate Harvard with a degree in engineering. But, I mean, we’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll have some amazing math professor who teaches me to love math, or something like that. I have no idea. Nothing against math. It didn’t harm me in any way. I’ve just never been good at it.

Did you know? When first lady Michelle Obama visited MAO Organic Farms in 2011, Kahunui Foster worked on the student video crew that documented her visit.