By David Tom
School Liaison Officer, Navy Region Hawaii
Prior to bringing his family to Hawaii from Japan on a military assignment in the summer of 2009, U.S. Navy Commander Brian Grimm flew to the islands for a house-and school-hunting trip.
He attended a parent meeting at
Kalaheo High school, after his initial research showed the Kailua campus appeared to mirror the academic performance of U.S. Department of Defense schools his two daughters had attended overseas. Gleaming remarks from fellow parents about Kalaheo's programs helped further erase misperceptions about Hawaii's public schools.
Thanks to his children's exceptional achievements, Grimm extended his Hawaii duty for three more years so his younger daughter could graduate from Kalaheo High last school year.
"Needless to say, we were very concerned about our daughters' education, as we had heard of the 'poor reputation' of Hawaii's public schools," recalled Grimm. "(My wife) Debbie and I were told that our girls would be behind in school when we eventually returned to the mainland, and that there were issues between local students and military students. Thus, we were not too keen on taking an assignment to Hawaii."
When they came to Hawaii in June 2009 from Misawa Air Base, Katie Grimm was entering the 10th grade while Nikki enrolled in 7th grade. When he left the PTA meeting, Brian was convinced his daughters would do fine at Kalaheo High and Kailua Intermediate schools.
Katie, a 2012 Kalaheo High graduate, is a marketing major at Clemson University in South Carolina. Nikki, who took three Advanced Placement courses this year, graduated June 2 with a 3.91 GPA. She was accepted at Virginia Tech, Clemson, Purdue, Colorado School of Mines, and Auburn universities. She will attend Auburn on a four-year Navy ROTC Scholarship and major in mechanical engineering.
"My first day at Kailua Intermediate School was very positive," said Nikki. "I met a good friend who was also a military dependent. I didn't have any problems making friends and adjusting to my new school."
Nikki encourages newly arrived military students to "get involved in extracurricular activities and get to know the local kids." Nikki practices what she preaches, having joined the National Honor Society, cross country, boys and girls club, water polo, soccer, and Navy JROTC, where she served as cadet commander in her senior year.
The Grimms are leaving Hawaii on June 5 for Brian's next assignment in Naples, Italy.
"We've loved our time in Hawaii and are very thankful for the educational experiences that Katie and Nikki had in the public schools," said Brian.