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  • Writer's pictureClarion Staff

Cougar Boost: Celebrating the achievements of senior Kai Nakaoka

By Christopher Fetros, Clarion Staff reporter

While Senior Kai Nakaoka's chapter at Kennedy High School may be coming to a close, she will be fondly remembered on campus and in the community for making the most of her recent years.

Nakaoka stands with mentors Mike Mullen and Phuong Nguyen at her Girl Scout Gold Award ceremony.

Eagle Scout & Gold Award Earner

On August 23, 2023, Nakaoka earned the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest such rank in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). She became the first to do so in Troop 50G, and the first female in a nearly century-long Scouting program at the Sacramento Buddhist Church.

Nakaoka was also nominated for -- and subsequently awarded -- the Three Rivers District’s Outstanding Eagle Project of the Year.

“I am sincerely humbled by the District’s generosity and am shocked that the District Advancement Chair called my project groundbreaking,” she stated in an exclusive interview with The Kennedy Clarion.

Nakaoka’s Eagle Scout project supported Zak’s Closet, a free clothing boutique sponsored by the Lutheran Social Services of Northern California. Zak’s Closet provides clothing and accessories for transgender and nonbinary youth in Sacramento.  She directed plans to remodel the boutique and conduct a clothing drive that ultimately yielded over a thousand articles of clothing, accessories, and jewelry, almost tripling the boutique’s inventory.

According to the BSA, fewer than 6% of Scouts earn Eagle rank -- and according to the Girl Scouts of America (GSA), fewer than 6% of Girl Scouts earn a Girl Scout Gold Award. Few Scouts have achieved both honors since BSA began admitting girls in 2017. Although an exact number is unavailable, since 2019 fewer than 10 girls have been reported to achieve both ranks, based on reports from news outlets around the country.

As outlined by the Scouts BSA advancement guidelines, “Scouts who earn Eagle Rank demonstrate scout spirit, an ideal attitude based upon the Scout Oath, Law, service and leadership. This includes an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads, and manages.”

In addition to earning the Eagle Scout Rank, she was awarded the Girl Scout Gold Award in early 2023. which, as stated in the Girl Scout Gold Award Guidelines "is the highest award that Girl Scouts can earn" to recognize "extraordinary efforts by extraordinary girls. To become a Gold Award Girl Scout, a girl identifies an issue she cares about, then plans and carries out a project to address it, which will have a lasting impact in her community and beyond.”

Powerlifter & Athlete

However, it’s not only her Scouting career in which Nakaoka is successful. As a powerlifter, she currently holds 6 World Titles, 4 World Records, 6 National records, 60 State Records and is two-time National Champion. She is also a member of the Powerlifting Club at Kennedy.

Nakaoka takes care of business at the 2024 United States Powerlifting Association (USPA) High School Nationals in New Orleans, April 13, 2024.

“I enjoy the camaraderie of the powerlifting community,” she commented.

Nakaoka also competed for Kennedy cross country and track teams her Freshman year. and became a Metro League Champion as a sophomore, before shifting her focus to her powerlifting career.

While she no longer swims competitively, she participated in the Alcatraz Swim at age 14, in which she placed 7th in the female non-wetsuit category, as well as 2nd in her age group.

"I first met Kai in May of 2022, and have had the pleasure of seeing her lift at many USPA meets," said Jennifer Reynaga, Kennedy English teacher and fellow powerlifter. "As the tiny lifter who lifts a LOT, she is a crowd favorite!"

Cougar Scholar & California Golden Bear

Nakaoka is also the top student at Kennedy. She is a National Merit Finalist from the PSAT, which fewer than 1% of graduated seniors nationwide achieve.  At the graduation commencement on June 12, Nakaoka will address fellow graduates as a co-Valedictorian alongside Drew Watanabe.

When asked what her future goals were, Nakaoka responded, “I will be attending UC Berkeley in the fall to major in Chemistry while pursuing a pre-medical education. I hope to use my education to eventually serve others as a surgeon.”

Kennedy Computer Science teacher Billy T. Hernandez added his take: "Nakaoka's the best."

Nakaoka stands with mentors and close friends on the occasion of her Girl Scout Gold Award ceremony.

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