ZZ, The man behind the legend


No matter what grade a student is in, chances are they know ZZ. ZZ is one of those rare students who has been able to touch so many lives at our school. ask any teacher or student that has gotten to know him, and they will tell you without a doubt he is the highlight of any room he’s in.

But getting to know the man behind the legend, who really is ZZ Kokonaing and what kind of impact has he left in his high school career

“Grace has shaped me the most in high school. I have been extremely fortunate to have been by parents, friends, teachers, and mentors in my life who have shown me forgiveness for things I myself have a hard time forgiving. I personally am selfish and ignorant down to my core, but I am constantly surrounded by people who just simply love a lot, as in loving frequently. Every encouraging message, the months of prayer from others I know and don’t know, those little moments that make you smile when you think about them, and many warm meals I have enjoyed will be the things I carry after graduation,” said ZZ.

Being nominated for Prom King is a clear indicator of being loved by your peers, but that’s just scratching the surface of what ZZ has done.

” I help lead worship through singing and acoustic guitar for Enlightened. This experience has definitely taught me what it means to be part of a leadership team. I, along with many other people, used to believe being a good leader means you tell people what to do and they do it. I realize that people don’t always listen and that just being you are good at something doesn’t make you a good leader. I learned through a lot of mistakes that being a leader is being a good emphasizer and making it your goal to understand what your team is going through, beyond any musical, athletic, or academic context,” said ZZ.

“Champions Together, I have learned I feel much more fulfilled when my goal is to build someone up rather than build myself up. I am not preaching against excellence; I believe it is very important to discipline yourself in a skill or technique or activity you enjoy. The coolest part about Champion’s Together is that my job as a partner (general ed. students) is to encourage and uplift the athletes (special education students). It has not completely made me as humble as I can be, but the memories and friendships from Champions Together has clearly shown me what makes me feel true and joyful instead of what feeds my pride, ya’ know?” said ZZ.

“Jazz band has been a wild ride, to say the least. It all started from my middle school band instructor encouraging me to pick up a new instrument to joining one of the finest high school jazz bands in the state of Indiana. Jazz band has taught me the importance of practice, which in itself has taught me the importance of consistency. It has allowed me to realize that music brings people together beyond walls that we don’t see. That sounds kind of deep, cliche, and something that belongs on a plaque you would find in the home decor aisle, but it is true,” Said Kokonaing.

Of course, high school is monumentally important, but it only lasts for a limited time. ZZ’s high school career is coming to and end soon and there are many unknowns that are quickly approaching.

“What scares me most about the future is losing my optimism. I have come to realize for the past thousands of years, the world has always had people who want to change it, but lose their passion or perspective in the process. One way of looking at it is that I’m afraid of becoming an adult-having to give up my passion for certain things in order to take responsibilities for other things. I’m scared that if I grow up I’ll have less hope or positivity. However, I am learning more and more that positivity is not only the best way to address some situations, but also the most realistic way,” Said ZZ.

Even outside of school and school activities like champions together, Jazz, and Enlighted. ZZ has left an impact on his high school career. ZZ is apart of a podcast along with his friends called “Facetime”, He is in band with fellow students called “Off time”, and his family opened a restaurant that makes authentic premise food called NineHouse.

“Working at NineHouse has taught me not to talk to my mom when she is in a rush cooking. It is a dangerous act that took too many times for me to learn from. On a less serious note, I have learned a lot of time management skills and how to live in the moment. Working in a family business is different in that it’s not about how much money you can make, but how well you can cooperate and support your family. I would rather hang out with friends every weekend or play music instead of making money in a restaurant, if I am being completely honest. But being in an environment where I can work and create a business with my family-that is worth the time it takes to open up a small business. The best thing about it is seeing people come into our little shop, a little unsure about the food or even trying Asian food for the first time, and then watching them come back the second time, learning their name the third time, and by the fourth time, hearing about the honeymoon in the mountains of Ireland. True story. NineHouse customers simply become family, and I feel that aspect makes the whole shebang awesome,” said ZZ.

Activities and school aside the most important aspect of persons life is there family. ZZ and the whole Kokonaing family are all equally fun and unique. The other key important part of ZZ’s life is his faith which has helped shaped him into the person he is.

ZZ and his my Project 5 family

“I have learned how to trust God even when I don’t feel like trusting him. Everyone goes through their suckiness in life. Whether it’s death, divorce, depression, or some other negative word that starts with a ‘d’ (I have nothing against ‘d’s though. I enjoy dogs, doors, and DJ’s) everyone experiences something dark in their life. That is the constant variable in every human’s life-suckiness. Everyone has something in their life that makes things difficult and disheartening. I can’t even stop alliterating with all these ‘d’ words. My faith has taught me Jesus strives for me and fights for my well being. I have experienced blessings in my life that I do not deserve at all. I do not say that as a boast, but as a fact of my life,” said ZZ.