WHS students succeed and explore Cambodia at LAB Global Finals


Six Waipahu High School students competed in the Learning Across Borders (LAB) Global Finals in Siem Reap, Cambodia from July 16-23.  Each student earned a silver or gold medal for their presentations related to the competition’s theme, “Water: The Source of Life.”

Ashlee Mei Balignasay (‘19), Emily Phanphongsa (‘22), Jada Lucas (‘20), Kylie Sylva (‘20), Gwen Nicole Moises (‘21), and Raymart Billote (‘21) were invited to the LAB Global Finals after placing in the top five at the Hawaii state LAB competition in April.

With her project “Creating a Smart Generator Using Deep Ocean Currents,” Balignasay (‘19) won the Chairman’s Award at the Global Finals, an honor given to the student with the best project overall.

Competitors from other Hawaii schools included students from Iolani School, Sacred Hearts Academy, Punahou School, and Island School.  Students, teachers, and parents from Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam were among the international attendees.  Students explored a wide variety of topics related to water in their presentations, ranging from sanitation to plastic pollution.

The students also met many peers and educators from the Asia-Pacific region and learned about the history and culture of Cambodia firsthand.  They toured the Angkor Wat temple complex and the Angkor National Museum, Tonlé Sap Lake, Kulen Mountain, and ABCs and Rice, a school that supports underserved Siem Reap students and families.

The experience as a whole broadened students’ horizons and built their confidence.  As Billote (‘21) said of the trip, “We got the chance to show our purpose and what we can do to solve water issues. It was really fun to be in a very different environment that I’m not used to.  We learned every day and that’s something that I will never forget.”