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Chihara family blessed by a serendipitous experience

By Staff | Aug 15, 2013

I always used to think that the word “serendipity” referred to sappy things associated with themes of “Mary Poppins,” “The Sound of Music” and things like that. Then, over the past year or so, the word has taken on a whole new, and personal, meaning for me and my family.

Serendipity is defined as, “An aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident,” and this is how the light of good fortune fell upon us.

Last summer, the Lady Luna basketball team traveled to Oregon to take part in the End of the Trail Shootout Basketball Tournament that showcases the top high school hoops talent in the nation for college coaches and scouts. Teams from Florida, to Alaska, to Hawaii, to California, to Texas and all points in between converge in the Portland area to compete in various divisions to showcase their talent for all levels of college programs.

The coaches and scouts have their own sections roped off in the bleachers at the various venues for the EOT tournament that lasts about two weeks. Every team that competes in the event has player profiles stacked at the official’s tables, so that college representatives can research information on high school student athletes they are interested in. The college coaches can only talk to seniors at the tournament, but they are allowed to contact younger players by phone, e-mail or mail.

The Lahainaluna team was participating for the first time and received the bid to the tournament courtesy of a Big Island program that has been competing in the EOT for years. Thus, the Konawaena and Hilo programs have developed some of the top high school basketball teams in Hawaii and have been able to forge a solid pipeline to college for their girls.

The Lady Lunas had a wonderful inaugural trip to Oregon for the event, playing plenty of basketball and experiencing a pleasant summer excursion to the Northwest.

Upon returning from the trip, however, our daughter Jade, a senior co-captain on the team, expressed her disappointment that no college representatives had talked to her.

That disappointment turned into joy about six months later, as the basketball coach of Smith College in Northhampton, Massachusetts, who had noticed Jade’s scrappy, all-out style of play at the EOT tournament, contacted Jade and expressed their interest in her. The communication developed into a serious endeavor for Jade, our family and the school, and soon we all had a collective smile on our faces as she was accepted to this highly regarded New England college.

Smith is a top-rated liberal arts women’s college and just happens to be where the first female collegiate basketball game was played. It is one of the “Seven Sisters” schools that are considered the women’s Ivy League in the Northeast. The Pioneers are a Division III college that competes in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) and have finished in second place the last two seasons and reached the second round of the NCAA playoffs this year.

We were told in a conference with the coaching staff that, upon reviewing Jade’s high school transcripts, the Smith admissions officer had immediately recommended that the team should recruit our daughter. Jade had graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 3.77 cumulative grade point average, having completed AP courses in physics, biology and literature. Point is, the academic record is the critical indicator for high school athletes looking to attend a college of choice – and there couldn’t have been a better fit for Jade than Smith.

The school is located just two hours north of Jade’s mom’s very large family in Rhode Island and about four hours south of where her brother is stationed with the Coast Guard. Northhampton is a quaint college town, representative of the historic New England educational communities. On her official visit to Smith, Jade was greeted by the Pioneer team and welcoming banners in the gym. Soon thereafter, she accepted the school’s offer that will pay about 75 percent of the $55,000 cost per year to attend Smith. Jade has indicated that she might go into education with hopes to return to Lahaina to teach school and, of course, coach Lady Lunas basketball.

All in all, it is plain to see that we are indeed having a serendipitous experience. We are so blessed to live in this place that we will forever call home, a community that has always provided the network of support so that all can enjoy a truly fruitful life. We thank God, we thank the priests and staff at Maria Lanakila Church, and particularly Father Gary Colton, and religious education teachers Maka Secretario and Dora Cosma for their guidance in developing Jade’s spiritual strength and awareness.

We thank all of Jade’s teachers from Holy Innocents Preschool, Princess Nahi’ena’ena Elementary School, Maui Preparatory Academy and Lahainaluna High School for developing her social and academic skills in preparation for her journey into the adult world.

We say thank you to the youth sports leaders in Lahaina – like Don Rosenthal, and Lady Luna coaches Todd Rickard, Ian Aotaki, Mike Bates and Eddie Pamat – for their crucial basketball guidance.

Thank you to all of the West Side community for such a beautiful life. Lahaina no ka ‘oi.