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Mahalo to the village of Lahaina

June 4, 2009
By Walter Chihara

It is said that it is the village that raises the healthy child.

So, as I sat amongst the crowd two weeks ago at the Columbia University Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science graduation exercises to watch our daughter walk the line to receive her degree, I thought of the many hands from the village of Lahaina that have supported her on this path to success.

I thought of the priests and parishioners of Maria Lanakila Church, who have provided the spiritual guidance and faith to help our family realize this dream.

I visualize all of Audrey’s school administrators, teachers and counselors from the staffs at Holy Innocents Preschool, Princess Nahienaena Elementary, Lahaina Intermediate and on through Lahainaluna High School, who contributed the vital educational energy to see her through to this success.

In particular, I see the faces of Katherine Brown, Audrey’s LIS math teacher; Julie Dicker, her LHS math teacher; Dale Burns, her physics instructor; and Al Nip, her Academy of Travel and Tourism mentor, all of whom inspired in her that thirst to find the answer that drives all serious students.

I think back to Earle Kukahiko, Audrey’s softball coach in the local youth league and at Lahainaluna, and to Joey Tihada, her high school and Napili Canoe Club paddling coach, who taught her the values of dedication, perseverance and teamwork in sports that translated into the inner energy that is essential in goal achievement.

Under the tutelage of Coach Earle, the teams Audrey was a part of rose from the depths of never winning a game in the youth leagues to a Maui Interscholastic League championship in 2004, along with a fifth place finish at the state tournament. Coach Joey guided the LHS paddlers to the state championship in the inaugural competition in 2002, as Audrey steered the Lahainaluna mixed crew to the gold medal.

I think of the Hyatt Regency Maui and how this resort hotel has provided a means of employment and medical insurance to our family, and so many families in similar situations, that is vital in the upbringing of children.

Perhaps most of all, I think of our neighbors and friends that have provided us the security of knowing the family of community. Lahaina’s aloha is like no other and was epitomized on this graduation day, as Audrey’s lifelong friend, Courtney Asato, whose family is our backdoor neighbor, made the long trip to New York to celebrate the momentous occasion with us.

Remarkably, we were joined by two other village of Lahaina families at the Columbia University graduation that spanned four days and honored 1,200 recipients. Cora and Duane Molina attended the event that recognized their son, Keith, who received a Master of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering, while Pat and Clifton Akiyama are the proud parents of Troy, who earned a Doctorate Degree from the Columbia Teacher’s College.

So, what we have here is three keiki o Lahaina that have taken the high road to emerge from one of the world’s top universities and now begin the next phase of their life journey. I am sure that I can speak for the Molinas and Akiyamas in extending our sincere thank you to the village of Lahaina for the support and wisdom you have provided us.

A keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony said that these graduates are now entrusted with the task and responsibility of combining their ideals with the knowledge they have gained to try to make the world a better place. Malama pono.

Indeed, Audrey, who earned her degree in Earth and Environmental Engineering, has been hired by the engineering firm of Brown and Caldwell in Wailuku and begins work in September. So our Maui girl comes home to us, one foot always in the sand. We are truly blessed. Mahalo!

 
 
 

 

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