HONOLULU (KITV4) -- Gerryzze Ilan, a valedictorian and honors student at Waipahu High School, worked diligently to get to this moment.
She was slated to be recognized tonight for her many accomplishments over the past four years -- serving on the student council, numerous academic honors and a 4.2 grade point average.
Instead, she's at home with COVID.
"I've cried all my tears already but as you would expect, I've been very hurt because you know every high school student looks forward to graduating," she said. "Hawaii graduations are so big, especially the lei portion. I wanted to get that experience of being lei all the way up here."
Ilan alerted the school that she and her household tested positive. Family members said at first they were told Gerryzze's name wouldn't be part of the ceremony.
"It was also kind of shocking to me that they wouldn't try to do something more for her to accommodate her situation," said her sister, Geraldine.
About 10,000 Hawaii public school students graduate each year. This is the first time since the start of the pandemic in-person ceremonies are allowed with a limited number of guests in attendance.
A Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) spokeswoman said schools are trying to ensure ceremonies don't create further spread.
"There's not a lot of words that can express how sad we feel for my little sister as well as all the other students out there," Geraldine Ilan added.
Waipahu High School reported 34 COVID-19 cases in the past week. Still, health experts agree the number of infections at schools -- and in the community -- is actually much higher.
"We all know how important graduation is in the state of Hawaii," said Dr. Scott Miscovich, owner of Premiere Medical Group Hawaii. "And I think it's fair to say that some people will be walking across that stage and they are positive for COVID."
HIDOE has distributed half a million home test kits to encourage high school seniors to test before their graduation ceremonies.
Health experts are worried infections will only grow in number after all the graduations and parties that are a big part of our local tradition.
Kristen joined KITV4 in March 2021 after working for the past two decades as a newspaper reporter. Kristen's goal is to produce meaningful journalism that educates, enlightens and inspires to affect positive change in society.