Student life at PBA is active and engaging. We offer activities in athletics, performing arts, and community service. In addition, the school hosts a number of all-school events throughout the year as a matter of tradition, such as the annual All School Camp, the Thanksgiving Feast, participation in the Lighting Our Way Banquet, rehearsals for the Soran Bushi as part of the annual Taiko Festival, Sports Day, the Senior Banquet, and the school's renowned Baccalaureate and Commencement Services. At PBA, we strive to nurture our students mind, body, and spirit through activities that engage and interest each individual.
Students look forward to significant school traditions by season. The earliest tradition in the sequence is the annual school camp.
All School Camp
The senior class plans, organizes, and implements an annual all school camp for the entire student body at the beginning of each school year. It is a way for students to gain essential leadership skills and an opportunity for the seniors to give back to the school by strengthening the community. Camp is held at Malaekahana State Recreational Park, where students and faculty spend three days learning how to build temporary living spaces, cook meals, work as a team, and become leaders. Students return back to school refreshed (teachers might debate the use of the word "refreshed" in this context), rejuvenated, and ready to begin the new school year.
The annual Lighting Our Way Banquet is an important part of the senior year experience the PeaceBridge Project™. Students have the opportunity to interact with local community leaders – such as former Governor George Ariyoshi, business leader and Island Insurance Executive Chairman of the Board Colbert Matsumoto, community organizer and honorary trustee Puanani Burgess, and renowned artist Satoru Abe – and learn about their accomplishments as a way to inspire them to become leaders as well.
Students conduct research and interview banquet honorees to compose profiles for the banquet program. They introduce the honorees at the awards banquet. And many students in the school perform for honorees as a tribute to their contributions to peace in the community.
Each November, the PBA sangha gathers to reflect on the spirit of gratitude at the school’s Thanksgiving feast. Every student and staff member contributes. Each advisory is responsible for a different part of the meal, from salads and sides through stuffing and desserts, and staff assist by sharing recipes, working alongside students in the kitchen, and serving the meal. After sitting down to a family-style Thanksgiving luncheon, it’s time for an all-school karaoke session, featuring songs by each advisory group as well as solos and duets performed by individual students and staff members.
Love it or dread it, students are responsible for the persistence of performing the Soran Bushi, a traditional Japanese folk dance, each spring in the annual Taiko Festival. While the school had organized students to dance the number in the first few years of the school's existence, staff relented, believing the students no longer wished to rehearse and perform the dance in the annual festival. At least one student – alumna Tiana Santos – disagreed, and she rallied students by organizing rehearsals and leading them in performance at that year's festival. Since then, PBA math teacher and U.S. Sumo National Champion Kena Heffernan has led training and choreography for annual performance of the number.
All students have the opportunity to perform at the Annual Taiko Festival, which is our premiere event to showcase the talents of our students. They intensively prepare to provide an afternoon of entertainment filled with taiko drumming, dancing, singing, and a wide display of musical talents. The public is invited and it is often a sell-out show with a seating capacity of approximately 700 individuals.
PBA's prom equivalent, the annual Senior Banquet gives the school sangha the opportunity to fête the soon-to-graduate senior class at an annual formal-attire ball, complete with balloons, confetti, deejay, flashing lights, and the adviser's roast of each senior advisee's most endearing aspects of personality. The event has been held in venues across the island, from the Waimea Valley Wedding Café, to 3660 On the Rise, to the Elk's Lodge and sundry hotels.
Kicking off Senior Week is PBA's annual version of the Olympic Games Sports Day. Replete with water cannons, bounce house, field sports, and the torturous (and wet) Advisory Obstacle Competition, Sports Day gives the school the chance to take over Magic Island for a day, expend energy outside the classroom, and lounge on the beach and play in the beautiful ocean for a memorable day each spring.
Baccalaureate / Commencement Services
The Baccalaureate Service is a spiritual event celebrating each student’s achievements in their studies of Buddhist values. This service culminates with the offering of a custom-made shikisho (representing the study of Buddhism) presented by the Bishop. The service is held at the Hondo, or main temple, of the Honpa Hongwanji Hawai‘i Betsuin.
The following evening, students are recognized at a traditional Commencement Exercise held at the Manoa Grand Ballroom of the Japanese Cultural Center. PBA’s Commencement Exercise differs from others due to its highly personalized nature. Each student is called on stage by the Head of School as he offers words of advice as they transition to their next stage in life. The ceremony closes with parents receiving their child after they accept their diploma.