Extra Credit Goes a Long Way: Terri Keeny, Class of ’78


Jenna Kim

Hummed throughout the hallways, chanted at the end of football and other sports games, belted cheerfully by the band, and sung with pride during bus rides home from sports events or by our choir, the chords of Mililani High School’s alma mater run through the school along with the life of its campus. Written during the school’s 1974-1975 year, most students can imagine the writing process of the piece: a distinguished god or goddess of music floating down to Mililani to present the gift to the school as student body bows. In actuality, the writer is a human, and her name is Terri Keeney. Having paid a visit to the school on Sunday, January 9 to take a photo in front of the seal and have a chat with the Trojan Times, Na Mana’o Poina’ole, principal Fred Murphy, student activities director Janet Ward-Riehle, yearbook advisor Danielle Castro, and Hope Garo, a friend she attended MHS with.
“It warms my heart and it makes me feel very proud that I was able to do this and Hope would tell me you guys sing it all the time and things like that, and I was like ‘What?’ because at my high school I never knew the words to our alma mater or anything like that,” said Keeney. “It makes me feel very honored to have been part of it. It’s very cool!”
Although Keeney attended MHS for her first two years of high school, she later moved to Florida. Thousands of miles away, she graduated from the University of Central Florida, and now has a husband, two children, and a home, where she still keeps in touch with other Mililani alumnus through Facebook. Keeney recently decided to take a vacation to Hawaii, where MHS principal Fred Murphy invited her to the school’s library to take a photo and talk at the school’s seal.
Keeney reminisces about the day her teacher, Mrs. Fukuda, asked her class to write lyrics for an extra credit assignment. She felt that it was nothing serious, and was convinced by her friends to submit a piece. Later, after Keeney’s lyrics were selected, she always had trouble remembering the last lines of the song, getting a question wrong on a test about the alma mater’s lyrics due to the school altering it.
“Yeah so I was like ‘psh, whatever,’ about it and then my teacher was like ‘well, you know, turn it back in.’ And I was like, ‘but I didn’t do anything,’ and she was like ‘well turn it back in, you never know,’” Keeney said. “So I did, and they did change a couple of the verses at the end. Which is what I always forget. My story is that we had a little quiz in gym class. And I couldn’t remember the new lines, so I had to ask Hope for help.”
In 1974, when Keeney went to MHS, the school was not yet fully built. In fact, Mililani High only consisted of what is now known as as the B/C buildings, the office, and the cafeteria; there were no L, K, G, O, N, H buildings, or portables for that matter. The school was also home to multiple time capsules as well as a tree that the class of 1978 planted as a gift to the community near C building, which was later removed. The town of Mililani, once filled with pineapple fields, was able to transform into an urbanized community full of people, houses, restaurants, health care, and recreational centers, much like Mililani High, which continues to expand and flourish today. Keeney’s lyrics to the song reflect on the world of Mililani in 1974.
“My favorite one was ‘from the mountains to the sea,’ because, like I said before, the two buildings, you could look out, so I could look from the classroom and look all the way down to the ocean, back in the day. That was my favorite and felt kind of inspired.”
Keeney advises students to go for the extra credit, as she never would have guessed that her lyrics would make such a large impact on the school she attended for just two years.
“I was lucky that I still had the piece of paper in my folder,” said Keeney. “And [Mrs. Fukuda] said ‘go ahead, just turn it in, you never know.’ And that was that.”