25 Student Athletes earn sports scholarships
Last Saturday, Field House (FH100) American Samoa hosted its second annual student-athlete ceremony at Samoa Baptist Academy honoring high school athletes who are graduating this year and who are going to continue their athletic career in college next year through scholarships.
This year saw two female athletes and twenty-three male athletes honored from the local high schools and another twelve who were already off island attending Junior Colleges. In addition to these athletes, FH100 also assisted nine students from the mainland, two from New Zealand and one from Australia, according to Executive Director of FH100 American Samoa, Brandon Smart.
Students from each local high school were represented last weekend and will be attending colleges in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Washington. Sports the students will be playing are women’s volleyball, wrestling, softball and football.
The guest speaker for the event was former National Football League (NFL) player and American Samoa born, Joe Salave’a. He spoke of leaving the island and his struggles to take his Samoan heritage with him to the mainland, which at times could be difficult when compared to the West Coast culture, explained Salave’a. He stressed that what he learned here in American Samoa from his family about pride, respect and hard work have led him to raise a family and be a successful member of society.
“This is your ‘golden ticket’ to an an opportunity that you must take, because the ships are sailing on your life and you do not want to be left behind,” stated Salave’a. “Give yourself a chance to be great and reward your family for their sacrifice by sending you off to get an education,” he said. “You represent an entire population, so make sure you do our little island proud and make a name for yourself by going to class, doing your work and getting your degree,” he told the young athlete scholars.
He continued to say throughout his address that anything that happens relating to their next educational chapter in life, positive or negative, would be solely theirs to own. He also expressed to them the importance of not using where they are from as an excuse to not succeed, pointing out that currently, students from here are doing very well.
Pastor Elise Tafo of Happy Valley Baptist Church was also a speaker at the event and used his time telling the student-athletes how proud the island was of them. He pointed out that the entire island was pulling for their success so younger students could get more exposure because of their success while away from here. “Your family and friends will be here waiting for your return. Your Christian faith and values will be what you have to rely on now more than ever before,” said Pastor Tafo. He said that for many of these students, it will be their first extended time away from the island and their faith and only theirs, would see them through this transition time.
Other highlights of the event included an address from Executive Director Smart, where he reflected on the past year of work for the organization. He stressed the honor and excitement he gets each year working in partnership with the local high schools while also explaining the tremendous job the counselors are doing to help get the students into college.
He also commented on partnerships with private sector companies to purchase a mobile SAT/ACT lab using kindle tablets and their continued efforts to branch out to other parts of the South Pacific to help Polynesians get opportunities to attend US colleges.
“We have now placed students from American Samoa, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia in college and will be traveling to Japan in a partnership with Tafuna Baptist Church in late June,” he said.
According to Executive Director Smart, approximately 1.2 million dollars is the estimated worth of scholarships accepted, bringing the total for the organization to nearly four million dollars over the last three years.
FH100 American Samoa, which started in the territory in 2009, was organized and designed to help student-athletes gain acceptance into college by helping students transition from high school to college. The American Samoan born Joe Salave’a played eight years (1998-2006) in the NFL where he played for the Washington Redskins, San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens and the Tennessee Titans/Oilers. He is currently the Defensive Line Coach for the Washington State Cougars.