Gabe Hernandez was valedictorian of Wylie East High School Class of 2014. He is now attending Stanford University and studying Symbolic Systems or the relationship between the human mind and the way computers are structured. I have had the pleasure of knowing quite a few valedictorians in my career, but Gabe stands out as one of the special kids you cannot forget. Ask ANYONE who knows him and they will say two things: he is a GREAT young man AND he has the tenacity of a honey badger. From learning to play an instrument, to running in cross country, to studying “Symbolic Systems,” Gabe sets a goal, creates a pathway to get there and ACHIEVES!
In his short life, he has taught me a lesson regarding how living responsibly yields achievement. As a first generation college student, Gabe set up his own appointments to visit with college recruiters. As a music student, he took it upon himself to learn how to sight-read and sing bass harmonies, was the resident “beat-boxer,” and was basically attached to his guitar…which he taught himself to play. I emailed Gabe last week to ask him how Stanford was going. His report – Great! What about activities Gabe? I tried out for their Ultimate Frisbee Team (after never playing before), and made the team as a freshman. THIS year, he is Stanford’s first sophomore team captain.
The most special part of Gabe is his balance between moral and performance character traits. He achieves so much, but what teachers remember most about him is best said by his choir teacher, Terry Berrier. “His gift, as I a saw it, was to be a friend to everyone regardless of age, scholarship or ‘social standing.’” It’s like the Karate Kid vs. Cobra Kai. Both were great at Karate, but you rooted for Daniel because he was “the good guy”! We need more “good guys” with responsibility.
On Wednesday, September 2, WISD will begin talking with our kids about “Kuleana,” or the Hawaiian word for “Responsibility.” The Hawaiians consider a responsibility in their lives as a “Kuleana,” or a privilege to be responsible for something because they have been given the opportunity as an American, Hawaiian, or member of the family to give back what has been given. Check out our short video created by one of our famous parents, Eddie James from The Skit Guys, as they provide a description of just what Kuleana means.
Kuleana perfectly matches our WISD “homemade” definition of responsibility which is “What I have to do in my life to keep my obligations, keep my relationships and achieve my dreams.”
Gabe’s Kuleana changes as his goals become different. He wants to go to Stanford, he gets good grades, he takes it upon himself to apply, he does all the other things necessary to make it happen and he asks for help when he needs it. What is your Kuleana? What is your child’s Kuleana?
Society only works when all of us accept our Kuleana to abide by laws and help one another. America works because young men like Gabe have the freedom to pursue a better life, grab the ring and maintain a sense of kindness and social responsibility to others while doing it. It’s Gabe’s Kuleana! BTW, Gabe cannot be President until 2030, but remember to vote for him when he’s eligible.
If you are a parent of a WISD kid, please take some time to ask you kid about their Kuleana, and be ready to share your Kuleana with them. What’s your Kuleana? — It’s the Wylie Way!