June 12—Chelsee Sawai entered the Mid-Pacific Institute as a sophomore after surviving two years of vicious bullying at another school. At Mid-Pac, she blossomed. Sawai joined the varsity golf team and the cheerleading team. She has officiated for various clubs, including the Math Team, the Mid-Pacific Athletes Club, and the Practical Skills Club, and has participated in half a dozen others.
Sawai also spent three years on the staff of Mid-Pac’s student newspaper, Na Pueo, where journalism became his passion. During this time, his work has been selected twice for publication on the Best of SNO (School Newspaper Online) website. During her senior year, Sawai served as the paper’s co-editor, and on April 9, she was named Hawaii High School Journalist of the Year by the Hawaii Scholastic Journalism Association.
Sawai, 17, will attend Chapman University in California this fall. (This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)
You have the longest list of school activities I have ever seen. How did you manage your time?
I managed my time by setting my schedules at the beginning of each week. I put a lot of effort into my time management, especially for journalism. I stopped clapping after COVID hit because my school didn’t take it back, so my time was spent on (other) extracurricular activities at school. I was at about 10 clubs, and I was also on the varsity golf team, and I took varsity pretty seriously. All of this combined took a long time. The way I managed my time was to put it into perspective – I had to do journalism first.
What made journalism so important?
It helped me grow, not just as a writer, but as a person. It taught me people skills. It taught me to talk to other people, people I never thought I would talk to. It taught me to step out of my comfort zone and reach out to people, which I was a bit afraid to do before journalism. I really like that aspect.
In three years as a journalist, have you had a particularly memorable interview?
One of the most memorable interviews I had was with the principal of my high school, because when I interviewed him, I had never had a formal conversation with him. Finally, being able to talk to him via Zoom really meant a lot because he’s a really good person, he’s done a lot for our school, and my (journalism) teacher actually picked me to be the first to interview him. She said, “I want you to step out of your comfort zone, and instead of just interviewing teachers and students, I want you to interview upper-level faculty.” He was actually my first high level teacher that I ever interviewed. So, yes, it was memorable.
Assuming you have time left after classwork, journalism, and other school activities — or maybe now that you’ve graduated — are there any non-school things you enjoy doing? ?
I really like shopping. I love shopping. I can spend a million dollars just on clothes, if I had room in my closet for it. I play golf for my school, but I also play golf outside of school. And I usually go to my golf lessons twice a week. I really grew up with this sport because I started golf at another school where I was severely bullied. Playing golf helped me through this very difficult time. So I really have an appreciation for this sport.
What are your plans for Chapman?
I’m going to double major in biological sciences and business, with a major in accounting because I kind of want to be in the medical field. I chose biological sciences because I need to know the scientific aspect of being a doctor. But I also chose business because as a doctor, you have to know how to manage your own business. I don’t major in journalism, but I still want to get involved.——Reach John Berger at [email protected]