Alumni News

Dr. Adam Paikai '66

When Adam Paikai was an eighth-grader, he took the exam for entrance into Kamehameha Schools as this was his dream.  However, his mother had other plans and had him also tested for a new Catholic school that was opening in Kalihi in the fall of 1962.  Adam, or “Bulla” as classmates had called him, was accepted into both schools, and of course that new Catholic institution in Kalihi would be known as Damien Memorial School.  “I had my heart set on enrolling in Kamehameha,” wrote Adam in a recent email to fellow ‘66 alumni. “But once I was accepted into Damien there was no other choice according to my mom.”

Adam wrote that the Brothers at Damien “had a tremendous impact in my life.”  While in high school, Adam had thirteen siblings (which would later grow to sixteen!) and because his father had to work a lot of overtime to support his family, the Monks, who did all of the teaching and coaching at the school at the time, would be his predominant male role models.

The Monks made such an impact on his life that Adam applied to and was accepted into the Christian Brother Order out of high school where he would begin his formation in New Jersey and then in New York before settling down in Chicago where he taught at the Brother Rice High School after receiving his BA.  He left the Order in 1972 to pursue his professional goals.

 “I feel like a part of my professional career and success in the State of Illinois would not have happened had I not attended Damien...”

Adam has spent the majority of his life, thus far, in Illinois:  he earned a BA in Social Studies Education at Lewis University in 1970 and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Illinois in 1976; married the love of his life, Cathy; reared two children, Sarah and Steve; held various positions in the school district and County, including principal; and earned a Doctorate in Education Administration from Northern Illinois University in 1996.

Adam opened up Granger Middle School as its principal and gained statewide and national attention with its Service Learning programs and spoke about them at national conferences.  “What I learned about Service Learning from our days in high school I passed on to students that I served as principal at Granger Middle School.”

Adam retired from public education in 2005 and then worked a few years as an assistant principal at a Catholic high school, but health issues forced him to leave the position.  Adam was diagnosed with kidney cancer, but he has obviously triumphed over his ailments more often than not and today spends most of his time babysitting his granddaughter, monitoring his health, supporting local sports high school teams, and enjoying retirement with his wife.  But Adam just cannot stay away from educating as he teaches a graduate course each semester on Social Emotional Learning for the DuPage Regional Office of Education at Aurora University. 

“It’s funny how life has many twists and turns and you end up where you are,” Adam laughed in an interview at the Walk of the Viriliter Age Pathway Ceremony last month.  “I didn’t want to come to Damien, but look what happened.”

(To view Adam’s detailed bio through 2005: http://dmhs1966.tripod.com/id7.html, and to view a speech he prepared for the Volley 4 the Cure Fundraiser, chronicling his battle with cancer, click on the following: My name is Adam Paikai.

Michael "Kalai" Balutski '83

Michael “Kalai” Balutski is a 1983 Damien Memorial graduate, and continues to meet up with his fellow alumni from one of the more active classes to ever come out of Damien.  Kalai said recently that he and more than a few of his fellow ’83 classmates gets together several times annually, capping off each year with a family luncheon at Christmas time.  Kalai had no problems dropping names.

Some of the ’83 Alumni who participates regularly in these gatherings include Brad Buffett, Rodney Kaanoi, Joey Aukai, Hayden Schmidt, John Lee, Paul Vargas, Arthur Takabayashi, Mark Flores, Edgar Ibarra, Kyle Nishimura, Kimo Ahnew, Shawn Coen, Dudley Munar, Darryl Iseri, and Armando Santana.  

Kalai reminisced that Rodney Kaanoi ‘83, Mark Flores ‘83 and Hollinger Abbey ‘83 have had sons graduate from Damien, and confirmed that Brad Buffett ‘83 is brother to Kim Buffett, Crimestoppers’ HPD Sgt., who currently has two children enrolled at Damien:  Skyler Capllonch ’16 and Shelby Capllonch ’19. 

Kalai conveyed that he understood the need and the benefits of Damien going co-ed, but stated, “We have life long friends because of our bonding in high school; there were no girls to show off to or impress.  You could be yourself and we were.”

Back in the day, many of the aforementioned ‘83 graduates hung out with each other even when school was not in session.  "I will always remember the weekends and summers we all spent during our high school years,” beamed Kalai.  “There was something fun always going on.  We were very Kolohe.”

When asked jokingly if he was Filipino-Polish, Kalai explained, “I am Hawaiian-Polish on my dad’s side; the “Balut” in Balutski is pronounced Ballot according to the (Polish) Aunties but we always pronounced it like the Filipino egg.”

While at Damien, Kalai participated in Football and Track & Field, and fondly remembers his teacher Rufus Roberts and teacher/football coach Peter Hata.  

Kalai said the biggest lessons he learned while at Damien were to be disciplined and to be accountable for one’s actions.  Kalai said that these lessons helped him at the time in his life when he needed them most.

“Damien is a big part of who I am today,” said Kalai.  “My dad was a disciplinarian, and always pushed us with responsibilities.  During my tenure at Damien, I was responsible to pay half of my tuition by working in the summer.  When you’re making such sacrifices like paying tuition, you don’t take your schooling for granted.”

After graduating from Damien, Kalai enrolled at Solano Community College in Fairfield, California.  Kalai played football at Solano with Brad Buffet, Rodney Kaanoi, and 1982 Damien graduate Raphael Tovio, but after one season Kalai did not return.  Kalai would get married a year later and soon after two daughters followed: Brandi, now 31, and Brittney, 27, who now has an eight-year-old son Kae’o.  

Kalai had applied his life lessons acquired at Damien, and from his father.   He did not take things for granted, and worked hard through the years and today is a self-employed Licensed General Contractor.  “When I am not building for someone else, I am usually working on my own personal projects.”  

Kalai’s current and second wife, Germaine, is from Kahaluu and is a Delta Airlines Flight Attendant who is currently based out of Honolulu, but still picks up trips to work out of Salt Lake City, Utah where she was based for many years.  Kalai still owns two homes in Utah, one with a purported state-of-the-art home theater, and he flies back there every other month to visit and host family and friends.  

This June, Kalai will be hosting 40+ football players who will be participating in the Polynesian Football Camp held annually in Utah by Damien graduates, Ana Tuiasosopo ’81 and Tuata Mauga ’81.  Kalai will be hosting dinners, “the notable thing this year is that [Tuiasosopo] has 15 boys from Damien” who will be participating in this year’s camp.  

Kalai’s support for Damien is ceaseless and his list of Damien graduates he socializes with is endless.  Damien Memorial School fundraiser was held at Tropics Bar and hosted by Brad Buffet ‘83 recently on April 16th and yes, Kalai participated…and yes, he probably knew everyone there…and yes, he is still Kolohe.

PARTNER AKIONA '03

On January 12, 2016 an article on Damien Memorial 2003 graduate Partner Akiona appeared in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.  The article was part of the paper’s Good Fit series and its purpose was partly an announcement on the Fifth Annual Makahiki Challenge at Kualoa Ranch, where Akiona was scheduled to be a participant.  However, the greater story was the inspirational account of how Akiona was able to get fit enough to participate.

Partner Akiona '03, left, with his trainer, Kepa Gaison (Photo appeared in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, January 12, 2016)

Partner Akiona '03, left, with his trainer, Kepa Gaison (Photo appeared in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, January 12, 2016)

Not too long ago, the article reported, Akiona weighed almost 400 pounds.  He had developed a sedentary lifestyle and would eat up to three plate lunches in an 8-hour work shift.  But a vision he had of himself entering a hospital and never leaving it gave Akiona a reason to get healthy, as did his frequent visits to the doctor’s office due to his weight.

The article reported that Akiona was active in sports at Damien but that he had no reason to work out as he got older.  After his vision about entering the hospital, Akiona sought help from his longtime friend, Kepa Gaison, a personal trainer.  Under Gaison’s guidance Akiona has lost a whopping 163 pounds by working out six days a week and eating a much healthier diet.

 “For people who have never carried that kind of weight that is not just physical weight,” Akiona stated for the article.  “That’s mental, too. That’s emotional weight. In having taken my life back, it’s almost as if I can now reintroduce myself.

Partner Akiona currently resides in Salt Lake and is employed as a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) worker and is enrolled in college part time.  Akiona was also a group manager for the hip-hop act Angry Locals.

See the video on Partner Akiona below documenting his inner struggles and triumphs before completing his transformation.