Seniors, parents cap off year with national letters


Photo by courtesy of Kahu Kalani Wong

Five seniors signed their national letters of intent Wednesday, May 3 with family and friends attending the signing in the Charles Reed Bishop Learning Center at Kamehameha Schools Maui.

Five seniors–Montana-Rae Vaught, Nevan Watanabe, Kealaula Keliʻikoa, Jade Vila and Kūpono Duarte–have topped their senior year off with the signing of their national letters of intent at the Kamehameha Schools Maui Charles Reed Bishop Learning Center on Wednesday, May 3.

Vaught will be attending Pacific University for softball, Vila will also be attending for softball at Chemeketa Community College, Watanabe will be attending the Oregon Institute of Technology for baseball, Keliʻikoa will be attending Whatcom College for soccer, and Duarte will be attending Linfield College for football.

Vaught has had her eye on Pacific University is a Division III college  since her junior year. Pacific is a Division III school.

Senior Montana Vaught stands to give a speech after her signing.
Photo by courtesy of Kahu Kalani Wong
Senior Montana Vaught stands to give a speech after her signing.

“A couple of my former teammates were on the Pacific softball team at the time and told me lots of great things,” Vaught said.

Though Vaught had other offers from George Fox and Hope International Universities, after hearing great things from former teammates and visiting the campus, she couldn’t help but think Pacific University was the place for her.

“The school has so much to offer me as a student-athlete and just a person in general. Pacific seems to be the perfect place for me to grow and learn,” she said.

Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Mark and Melinda Vaught, are also excited for her future and feel that they are truly blessed and amazed with the woman Vaught has become.

Vaught, said she has been training to play collegiate softball since the age of four, “even if I didn’t know it,” she said.

“She doesn’t get caught up in being the best. She focuses on being HER best,” Mrs. Vaught, her mother, said.

Having this mentality is what Mr. and Mrs. Vaught believe has led Montana to be so successful both on the softball field and in the classroom.

“It’s difficult to put into words how proud we are of you and how excited we are to help and support you in this next chapter of your life,” Mrs. Vaught said toward Montana.

Mr. and Mrs. Vaught constantly express their love for their daughter and “look forward to great things” she will do, they said.

Since Pacific University is a Division III college, they cannot offer athletic scholarships; however, Vaught was awarded the Presidential Merit Scholarship for $18,000 as well as several other scholarships.

While competing in softball, Vaught will also be majoring in Exercise Science.

Watanabe who will be attending the Oregon Institute of Technology for baseball. OIT is part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

“From the admissions officers to baseball coaches, to even the players and students. Overall, it was a good fit academically, athletically, and socially,” Watanabe said.

Along with Oregon Tech, Watanabe had offers from a couple of junior colleges in California and a Division III college in Oregon.

In addition to playing baseball, Watanabe will be majoring in biology-health sciences as he feels it is important to compete in baseball but to also get a good education.

Along with a baseball scholarship, Watanabe has also qualified for the Western Undergraduate Exchange tuition program, but is unsure of the amount of money he will be given.

Similar to Vaughtʻs parents, both Mr. and Mrs. Watanabe are excited and proud of what their son has done and who he has become.

Senior Nevan Watanabe stands to give a speech after his signing.
Senior Nevan Watanabe stands to give a speech after his signing.

“Since Nevan was a toddler, we noticed how he was always determined yet thoughtful in the way he approached learning new things,” Mrs. Watanabe said.

Though Watanabe did get a baseball scholarship, Mr. Watanabe feels that Watanabe’s good time management and success in the classroom is what paved his road to college.

“The baseball scholarship was just icing on the cake,” Mr. Watanabe said.

Also, although Watanabe has learned a lot from his parents, his parents have also learned a lot from him. They feel his humility and respectfulness have inspired them to always do their best and never give up.

They too deeply love their son and will miss him.

Watanabe has already begun training but does not start official training until a week before the start of his first college school year.

Watanabe’s fellow football teammate Keliʻikoa, who will be attending a college that is part of the Northwest Athletic Conference for soccer, is also excited for his future.

Keliʻikoa will be majoring in business while competing in soccer and has already begun training for the season.

With offers from three other schools, one in South Dakota, one in Baltimore, and one in Kansas, the deciding factor in his choice to attend Whatcom Community College was convenience, he said.

“It was a comfortable decision, not too many iffy decisions,” he said.

A similarity shared between all the parents of the athletes is pride and excitement.

“He did very good in school and in sports. I am very excited for him and his next educational adventure in college,” his father Mr. Aiwohi said.

In addition to Keliʻikoa having a “good foundation and work ethic that will carry him into the future,” Mr. Aiwohi said, he also thanks the teachers, coaches, and mentors that may have helped Keliʻikoa through his journey thus far.

Mr. Aiwohi knows that Keliʻikoa knows his family will always love and support him.

Keliʻikoa was also fortunate enough to get in-state tuition.

Jade Vila will be attending a junior college in Oregon for softball.

Vila was given other offers as well, however; she chose Chemeketa Community College because of its location.

“From past experiences, Oregon is like a second home to me. It’s a Hawai’i in the mainland, and I believe that I’ll truly be happy going to school there,” Vila said.

Also, Vila’s overall decision to attend college was for a higher education. She believes that education is “powerful” and that anyone can get far in life if they are educated and financially stable.

Duarte who will be attending a Division III college in Oregon for football.

Along with his college of choice, Linfield, Duarte also had officers from Western Oregon, Pacific, and Southern Utah Universities; however, he chose Linfield because they will be paying for 90 percent of his tuition, which is around $40,000 a year in financial aid.

Furthermore, Linfield is one of the top teams in the nation for Division III, and, “If you want to be the best, you have to play with the best,” Duarte said.

Duarte will be going up to Linfield in late August to begin offseason training, and when school begins, he will be majoring in engineering.

All five athletes and their parents are excited and proud about playing at the next level and are interested in seeing what the future holds for them.