LAHAINA - Two shining stars from Lahaina are vying for the title of Miss and Mr. Maui 2012 in the annual Miss Maui Scholarship and Mr. Maui Scholarship program that will take place on Saturday, Feb. 25, at the University of Hawaii Maui College Pilina Building-Student Lounge.
Lahela and Kapili Akima are also a talented sister and brother tandem raised here on the West Side with a deep appreciation for Hawaiian culture, and with it a fondness and appreciation for the language and dance of these islands.
With their parents, Noe and Tommy Akima, leading the way as the mentors and organizers of Na Kamali'i O Ke Akua hula halau, Lahela and Kapili were immersed most naturally into the cultural traditions of Hawaii while gaining a unique insight into the values and richness of aloha.
Lahela and Kapili Akima will compete in the Miss Maui Scholarship and Mr. Maui Scholarship programs on Feb. 25.
Upon meeting either of these two children of the village of Lahaina, one is immediately introduced to the warmth and kindness of this community.
As Na Kamali'i O Ke Akua presents a deeper representation of the human spirit than one would expect from a song and dance troupe, Kapili and Lahela have developed into young adults who express a beautiful blend of youthful exuberance that is clearly rooted to the love and respect of the principals of 'ohana (family).
Both were born and raised on the Valley Isle. They attended and graduated from Lahainaluna High School, participating in student government as class presidents, honor students and leaders of their respective athletic teams.
A member of the Lahainaluna National Honor Society chapter and tutor in the Lahaina Complex after school program, Lahela graduated Magna Cum Laude with the Class of 2010.
She captained both the Lady Luna volleyball and basketball teams and helped lead the Lahainaluna hoopsters to the 2010 state championship, to go along with the four Maui Interscholastic League championship medals she won with the team.
Lahela was honored with a Student Spotlight award in The Maui News, Lahaina News Scholar Athlete of the Week profile and Hawaii High School Athletic Association Team Player Award recognition.
She currently attends U.H. Maui College and is working toward a degree in Hawaiian Language while employed at Maui Myth & Magic as a dancer and actress in the 'Ulalena show.
Through the Miss America Organization and the Children's Miracle Network, Lahela hopes to raise awareness for organ donations in indigenous cultures.
"Through these partnerships, contestants are not only able to raise funds for our children struck with illnesses, but we are also able to raise awareness for our society to know more about CMN. Through the support of our communities, we are giving hope to families, faith to parents and life to children," she said.
As her senior project at Lahainaluna, Lahela organized a benefit concert for Kaniala Pasamonte, who suffers from diaphragmatic hernia. The event raised $5,200 to go toward his medical expenses.
Kapili, six years senior to Lahela and the oldest of the four Akima children (brothers TJ and George are in between the two), set a similar pathway in his years at Lahainaluna and into young adulthood.
He also took leadership roles in student government as class president and vice president while teaching hula with the family halau, as well as contributing as an instructor with the Lahaina Community Mentor program.
He captained the Luna volleyball team and helped coach the squad after graduation.
Kapili's primary love has always been singing, and he competed successfully in the local "Brown Bags to Stardom" competition, as well as the Maui District Student Council Organization Singing and Talent events and the "Road To Fame" State High School Talent Competition in 2004. This all led to an "American Idol" audition in 2004 and a "Hawaii Stars" finals run in 2007.
He started a hula halau in 2000 to "take children off the streets and give them a safe place to learn cultural dances and strong morals in life."
This all followed a seizure with a high fever as a child that resulted in brain damage, leaving him to live the rest of his life with 75 percent of a brain.
"I love living life and being an inspiration to our youth. Children and working in the community are my passion. I love being able to give hope and help open doors for not only the children of West Maui, but for all the children of Maui. I am a new teacher hire cultural mentor, which gives me the ability to help students as well as teachers grasp the concept of our culture and what aloha truly means," he said.
"Also, February 25, 2012, the day of the pageant, marks the sixth year of the passing of my grandma, Emma Akima, which makes this whole experience that much more special for both my sister Lahela and I. In my life, faith, family and friends are key. Never forgetting who you are, where you come from, are morals instilled in me. Living life to the fullest and loving everyone in it is a must," concluded Kapili.
Tickets for the event are $30; children under two will be admitted free. Call (808) 463-0377 or (808) 463-6270 for more information.