We caught up with Courtney-Cree Aponte '10 to hear about her role as an engineering fault controller in the revolutionary rail system, the Skyline. She shares how Assets School helped shape who she is today.
When did you graduate from Assets School?
I graduated from Assets School in 2010.
How long did you attend Assets School?
I started attending Assets the summer before 6th grade.
After Assets, what school (s) did you attend?
After Assets, I attended Boise State University and College of Western Idaho.
Since graduating from Assets School, what have you been up to?
After graduating from Assets School, I moved to Boise, Idaho, and attended Boise State University from 2010 – 2012 and College of Western Idaho from 2012 – 2014. I moved back to Hawaii in 2014 to give birth to my daughter. In August 2014, I worked at Home Depot, Pearl City, for about eight years, State Farm Insurance in 2016 for about a year, and Hitachi Rail from 2020 to the present.
What is the most surprising thing that happened to you recently?
The most surprising thing that happened to me recently was paying off my student loan and buying my own home. It took a lot of hard work and a long time to come. It was surprising when all that happened. I didn’t realize that I was in escrow until maybe 2 hours after my real estate agent told me that I was in escrow. It was harder to keep it a secret from my family until the week of closing.
Where do you work now, and what do you do?
I currently work for Hitachi Rail Honolulu as an Operation Control Room Controller. I have been with the company since May 2020. I started as a Station Operator. After a few months, I became an Information Controller. About a year later, I became an Engineering and Fault Controller/Train Controller, where I am currently. I currently work overnight. I work closely with the Maintenance Department, assisting them with different tasks. During the day, I would work closely with our Station Operators, assisting them with passengers, equipment in the stations, and trains if needed.
What is something about the rail that people would find surprising?
The Skyline is the first automated driverless train in the nation; you can use the Holo Card for both the train and bus, and once you hit the all-day mark, you will not be charged anymore (all day pass I believe is $7), and we do have extended hours when there are special events.
Rail has been a project that has been talked about for a long time, starting as far back as 1968 when Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi pushed for it. The most recent push for rail came in 2008 when voters wanted steel-on-steel rail. A groundbreaking ceremony for the rail construction was held in 2011. On June 30, 2023, Skyline opened to the public. What was opening day like?
Opening Day for Skyline was crazy but enjoyable. I worked a long shift that day to help with coverage. We did have some hiccups, but we made it through. Once we opened to the public, it was different in a good way. Everyone got to see the rail being built and the trains testing without passengers. Once we opened it, a lot of hard work, training, and preparation finally paid off. Opening weekend, we had between 5,000 and 10,000 passengers per day. Now we don't have as much, but that's OK. We will have more passengers once we open the next phase between Pearl Harbor and Middle Street. I did get to ride the train when they had Family Day, and I rode it here and there when I didn't want to drive, had to take my car in for service/repairs, or parked at one station riding to another to get my daughter from other family members so I could save on gas.
What inspired you to get into your current job/path?
What inspired me to the career path I am currently on was trying something different. I had been working with customer-related jobs since I was a junior with my mentorships, and I needed to try something different.
What interests you the most about your work?
What interests me a lot about my work is that I can control trains and stations for my desk. I haven’t had a job where we would have to rely on computers so much.
How did Assets prepare you for your career? What are some of the lessons you learned at Assets School that you still use to this day?
Assets prepared me by advocating for myself. I have a hard time speaking up for myself even to this day, but now I don’t do it only for myself I will also speak up for others if they need me to. The mentorship program prepared me with a good set of work ethics and basic things such as writing a resume, answering questions in an interview, presenting myself at my interview, and dressing for my normal work day.
What are some of your favorite memories of Assets School?
Some of my favorite memories are my senior trip to Waipio Valley on the Big Island, my senior class camping trip, and project grad after graduation.
Waipio Valley because we were the first graduating class to take a class trip to a neighboring island. We embraced living off the land, no electronic devices (we could have them, but they didn’t work), and just being together as a class.
Our senior class camping trip was fun. Both a classmate and I had a track meet that day, and as soon as it was done, one of our parents rushed us out to Kualoa campgrounds so that we could join our classmates. I remember racing Ms. Beste around the campsite with the top of the tents like parachutes, watching Mr. Black make instant coffee in a pan over the fire, and just having a good time with friends and teachers.
Project Grad, because I didn’t think I wouldn’t see most of my classmates again. I thought we would stay close or in touch for the most part. It was the memories made that night that we can always look back on.
I played soccer, track, cross country with PAC-5, and cheerleading with Assets. I did go to states for soccer twice and came in state champs for D2 and track one year, but didn’t place. I would love to go back into playing soccer and maybe triathlons again. Right now, keeping up with my daughter and her sports is a different kind of sport right now.
What kind of mentorships did you have at Assets School? How did it help your future?
· Sophomore year, I was at Waikiki Elementary.
· Junior year, I was at Hans Hedemenn Surf School.
· Senior year, I was at Crazy Shirts.
· These mentorships showed me what type of work I enjoy doing, how to better communicate with others, and set personal goals for my career.
How did you get the name Courtney-Cree?
My parents didn't know if I was a boy or a girl. They chose Courtney as the name of one of the actors in the movie “Memphis Bell.” Cree was from another movie that my parents were watching when my mom was in labor with me. Courtney was supposed to be if I was a boy and Cree if I was a girl. But they couldn't pick one. They hyphenated it, and out came Courtney-Cree.
What do you like to do for fun? And why do you like doing it?
I enjoy just hanging out with friends and family because I just enjoy just hanging out and relaxing. Taking my daughter to do things. Such as her sporting events, the beach, and movies. Just want to support her in whatever she wants to do. I like taking trips because sometimes I just need a getaway to recharge and do things that I don’t normally get to do.