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261 Tafuna Warriors graduate: “Fear not, believe only” their theme

THS 2024 graduates

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Tafuna High School Class of 2024 Commencement Exercise on Monday, June 10, 2024, filled the Kanana Fou gymnasium with family, friends and supporters who cheered loudly, as the 261 graduates made their way onstage to receive their diplomas. THS is noted as the largest high school on island, with its students comprising the largest student body, and thus its graduation class is the largest in the Territory annually..

(The THS gym is currently under renovation, which is the usual place for the schools events, including graduations.)

The opening prayer was delivered by Rev. Reupena Alo of the CCCAS Pava’ia’i, followed by welcoming remarks by THS Principal, Mrs. Tutuila Nauer Togilau, who introduced the keynote speaker, First Lady Ella Pelefoti-Mauga, a Tafuna High School alumnus.

“Today we celebrate not only your academic achievements but also your resilience, your growth and the beginning of a new chapter in your lives,” the First Lady began.

“Your chosen theme of, ‘Fear not, believe only’ is a powerful mantra that will serve you well, as you embark on the journey ahead. ‘Fear not,” are simple yet profound words that remind you that fear, while it is a natural emotion, it should never dictate your actions or limit your potential.

“Throughout your high school journey, you have faced numerous challenges, difficult exams, loss of loved ones, personal struggles and perhaps, moments of self doubt. Yet, here you are. You have persevered. You have shown that fear can be faced head on and that overcoming fear leads to growth and strength.

“Have you ever wondered how many times the phrase ‘Fear not’ is mentioned in the Bible? Luke Chapter 8 verse 50 says, ‘But when Jesus heard it, He answered him saying, Fear not, believe only and she shall be made whole.’

“I do wonder though, whatever made you choose this amazing theme of ‘Fear not, believe only.’ As mentioned by Rev. Alo, your theme tells the story of a man named Jairus who had a daughter who was ill for a very long time and was dying.

“As Jesus made His way through the crowd that almost crushed Him, a very sick woman who couldn’t be healed from her bleeding touched the edge of His cloak and immediately, her bleeding stopped. ‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked. ‘Someone touched me. I know that power has gone out from me.’

“While Jesus was speaking, someone came out of Jairus’ house and said to Jairus, ‘Your daughter is dead. Don’t bother Jesus anymore.’ Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, ‘Fear not, believe only and she shall be made whole again.’

“Mind you, Jesus said this before He even entered Jairus’ house to even see his daughter. The powerful message in this passage that echoes your theme is a reminder to your class to fear not, believe only. This  connection of your graduating theme and the story of Luke portrays a similar picture.

“Jesus tried to influence the masses telling the large groups of people to believe in something that they had not seen, to believe that she isn’t dead, and your class to believe in yourselves, that you can conquer a world full of unknowns.

“Throughout your lives, you will frequently find yourselves at a crossroad between fear and belief. You will face problems, doubts and obstacles that are meant to crush you. That will appear impossible to conquer causing uncertainty and worry on your way.

“However, in these times of darkness, you must remember to draw from the wisdom and counsel of your theme today, ‘Fear not, believe only.’

“Carry this belief with you as you embark on the next chapter of your lives, whether it be higher education, entering the workforce or exploring other options. Believe in yourselves, in your dreams and the impact that you can have on the world.

“Remember that every great success began with the simple act of thinking that something was possible. Your generation is entering a world that is fast changing and full of uncertainty. Technology is advancing, global concerns are becoming more complex and society standards are continually changing.

“However, these uncertainties present enormous opportunities for individuals who are brave and trust in their God and their ability to affect positive change. Belief is the antidote to fear. So I urge today to cast away your fears and embrace the power of belief.

“Believe in yourselves, believe in your dreams, believe in your God and the limitless potential which resides within you. And remember, as you embark on your journey, the only thing that you have to fear is fear itself.

“In closing, I leave you with the words from the book of Isaiah Chapter 41 Verse 10: ‘Fear not, for I am with you. Be not discouraged for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’

“Graduates, remember to embrace fear as part of the journey and let your belief be the compass that guides you,” she concluded.

Governor Lemanu P.S. Mauga was brief in his special remarks that followed.

After greeting the parents, invited guests and the graduates, he spoke on the importance of making time for the children and building a close relationship with them by becoming involved with their education and most importantly, their everyday lives.

"Some of us parents get so tied up with work and other obligations that we miss out on spending much needed time with our children," Lemanu stated. "Today, your children stand before you after achieving a significant milestone in their young lives.

"Today is a testament of God's love, guidance and protection and to Him we give all praise and glory. I urge you today, to put aside everything and spend at least one or two hours with your children.

“Spend some quality time with them today to celebrate this important achievement."

He then reminded the 261 graduates of the sacrifices that their parents endured so that they could have a good start in life and asked them to stand up and sing the Samoan thank you song, which they did while facing their parents.

One of the three Co-Valedictorians of Tafuna High School Class of 2024, Charles Saunoailegutu Tauiliili (far left) and his peers during their graduation ceremony on Monday. [photo: Asi A. Fa'asau]

The Class of 2024 Co-Valedictorians and Salutatorian were introduced, and for the first time this graduation season, males were also named in the two top positions.

Two of the three Co-Valedictorians of Tafuna High School Class of 2024, Fenomarama Mercy Blessing Aperaamo (right) and Alexandria Lorena-Teresa Faiivae smile for the Samoa News camera during their graduation ceremony on Monday. The third Co-Valedictorian is Charles Saunoailegutu Tauiliili.  [photo: Asi A. Fa'asau]

The three Class Co-Valedictorians are Fenomarama Mercy Blessing Aperaamo, Charles Saunoailegutu Tauiliili and Alexandria Lorena-Teresa Faiivae.

The Class Salutatorian is Ezekiel Tyndale Toafa.

Other PTA Awards include:

Female Athlete of the Year — Florina Maeataanoa

Male Athlete of the Year — Regan Duffy

Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year — Princess Spitzenberg

Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year — Loring Faiivae

Leader Award — Arnel Malua Atiae

Citizenship Award — Chaelynn Gonzales

Highest SAT — Charles Tauiliili

Highest ACT — Kamakahukilani Tuitoelau

Certificates of Special Recognition from Congresswoman Uifa’atali Aumua Amata were awarded to each THS graduate as they also received their diploma.