Embracing the Punahou Journey

Star Dahl-Thurston '16

Star Dahl-Thurston '16 is not afraid to be her own person. As a finalist in the Damon Speech contest, class president her sophomore year, or a teaching assistant in the after-school Chinese language immersion program at Wo International Center, Dahl-Thurston projects a confidence, warmth and curiosity that allow her bright personality to shine.

She attributes her strong sense of self-direction to the unconditional love she has received at home from her mother, Liz Dahl, and to Punahou, where she felt nurtured by an environment of safety and support from kindergarten through her senior year. Citing teachers whom she feels genuinely care about her as a person and the diversity of resources that she has taken advantage of but could never exhaust, "Punahou has shaped me from such small to big things; from developing kindness in relationships to adding perspective and being hungry to learn," she says.

Dahl-Thurston's Punahou journey has been considerably influenced by her education in Chinese culture. What began as a foreign language choice in middle school became a life-changing experience when she spent her junior year in Beijing, learning that global citizenship was much more than just traveling to another country, but rather truly understanding other ways of inhabiting the world.

"I think another culture adds so much perspective and so many more layers to the kind of person you are, the kind of person you want to be, how you look at other people and how you even live your own life," she reflects. "Just learning another language or stepping into someone else's shoes can do wonders for the world. There would be much less hatred or violence in general if we were better at understanding the other side."

If it weren't for the availability of financial aid, this and many other experiences might have been out of reach. "We made a lot of sacrifices," says her mother. "It got a little tough and I was afraid that I was going to have to take her out of Punahou at one point. When I got those letters with the financial aid award, I would cry each and every time, and text or call Star to tell her, 'You're going back to Punahou next year!' I would love to be face to face with the people who've helped her and say 'thank you for everything you have done for my family.' It's meant so much and we've never taken it for granted."