After only 11 months in Texas, the Jones family was notified last July they were being relocated to Hawaii.
“My first thought was, ‘we’ve been here not even a year, and we’re moving again?’” said Leah Jones. “My second wave of thoughts went to the rumors that Hawaii schools are so far behind the mainland.”
Apprehensive about daughters McKenzie and Madelyn, Jones got on the phone and reached out to other Army families who had children enrolled at Leilehua High School. She was pleased to learn rumors about Hawaii schools were just misperceptions.
The initial phone calls to other families marked the beginning of a smooth transition to Hawaii, according to Jones, whose husband is CSM Benjamin Jones, the Command Sergeant Major of the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks. Their daughters McKenzie, a senior, and Madelyn, a junior, attend Leilehua, while firstborn child Tanner is a senior at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York.
Jones also credits the Schofield School Liaison Officer and the Leilehua registrar’s office for their help in working to get her daughters registered in time to start school in August. Leilehua is the Jones girls’ third school in a matter of years: McKenzie and Madelyn began with a school in Carthage, New York, then moved to Killeen High in Killeen, Texas, before arriving at Leilehua. But Jones says the transition to Leilehua has been further helped by some of its outstanding teachers.
“A few who come to mind right away are Mr. Wetzel, Mrs. Paz and Mr. Ruff,” says Jones. “All three of these teachers have a classroom atmosphere that is inviting, and they encourage students to participate and (are) always available for extra tutoring if needed. In fact, I can honestly say that the tutoring that is available here at Leilehua is more than my girls have experienced in any other of the two states we have lived.”
While both girls are Advanced Placement and honors students, they’re excelling outside of the classroom as well. Both McKenzie and Madelyn are on the Mules’ varsity soccer team, and Jones says soccer coaches Erin Chow and Matt Smithe welcomed the girls from day one, which was very comforting for the entire Jones family.
During their free time, the Joneses immerse themselves in the local culture and lifestyle.
“Our family loves to go on local hikes – the scenery on Oahu is breathtaking from so many different areas,” she says. “We enjoy walking around Chinatown and trying new noodle shops and shopping at local produce stands as well.”
Mrs. Jones says Wahiawa eateries like Sunnyside, Dot’s and Shige’s are among the family’s favorites. When their son Tanner visited during the holidays, the family took a catamaran trip around Diamond Head.
Her daughters aren’t the only ones that seem to be making the most of their time at Leilehua. During the school day, Jones serves as the parent facilitator for Leilehua’s Parent Community Networking Center, and thrives on the opportunity to see her girls’ new high school from a “very personal and insider’s view.” She says through her job, she has been able to meet many community members who play a vital role at Leilehua.
“I can say that I have worked with the local Lions Club in Wahiawa, Surfing the Nations, 2-27 Infantry from Schofield Barracks and Island Palm Community (housing management for Schofield Barracks),” Jones said. “Each of these organizations have given in some way to Leilehua, be it participating in Career Day, Judging for Senior Projects, working with the Nakayoshi Kai Club in building a strong relationship with the Holy Family Orphanage or judging for our Mighty Mule Awardee and Minehira Scholarship of Excellence.”