Colette Masunaga’s Essay

What do you intend to accomplish in California?  Please describe your academic and career goals.

I plan to attend American River College (ARC) for two years and then transfer to the University of California at Davis.  I plan to focus on “science and society.”  I hope to understand the actions of people on a scientific level.  I am presently a Rotary exchange student in Udon Thani, Thailand, and will return on May 26, 2009, in order to graduate with my class at Konawaena High School on June 6, 2009.  I hope to become a doctor and come back to Kona to help the people.  I want to major in gerontology in medical school.  My cousin teaches at ARC and I will live with my aunt.  My mother’s parents grew up in California and I feel very comfortable in the Sacramento area.  My grandparents believed a college education was essential to a successful career.  Unfortunately, my grandparents could not attend college.  My maternal grandmother graduated high school in the internment camp at Jerome, AK, and my grandfather was interned at Poston, AZ.  When my grandparents were alive (they both passed away in 2004), they stressed how important it is to study hard.  My parents want a better life for my sister and me, and they know I will thrive in the environment in California.

How did growing up in Kona influence your goals and prepare you for life?

I grew up on a coffee farm in South Kona.  My father is the owner of Masunaga Farms, and my great grandfather bought the coffee farm in 1928.    I attended church at Kona Hongwanji Mission in Kealakekua, and became involved in 4-H when I was in elementary school.

When I was ten years old, I went to Camp Papaloa, sponsored by the Tropical Reforestation Ecosystems & Education (TREE) Hawaii.  I learned about the environment and planted trees on the slopes of Mauna Loa in South Kona.  In 2006, I participated in a cultural exchange camp at Keei beach and volcano with the Navajo and Yavapai Apache tribes.  I was a youth leader at the TREE camp in Capt. Cook in the spring of 2008.  In June of 2008, I was a U.S. Senate Page in Washington, D.C.  I was selected by Senator Daniel Inouye, who did not recall ever selecting a page from the Big Island of Hawaii!

I have been a member of the Kona 4-H Federation for over ten years.  I have served as an officer for the Kona 4-H Federation, President of the Shining Stars 4-H club, and was selected to attend the National 4-H Congress in Atlanta.  When I was twelve years old,  I was the last Hawaii 4-H member to participate in the 4-H International Exchange Program (I went to Komagane, Nagano, Japan in 2004).

I remember the time I organized a community service project for my club.  We cleaned up a small cemetery in Keokea.  We picked up rubbish and pulled weeds the day before Memorial Day.  When we finished, we ended up with a huge mountain of trash bags.  We were all so proud of our accomplishment upon seeing all the trash bags piled one on top of the other.  Other community service programs I participated in included a restroom improvement project for Konawaena High School, a beach clean up at the old Kona airport, a school locker renovation, and visiting the elderly at the long term care unit at Kona Hospital.

I always tried to do my best when it came to organizing and planning community service work.  In February 2007, I received the Soroptimist International of Kona, Violet Richardson Award honoring young women volunteer.  I donated $500 of the cash award to the Kona Hongwanji Preschool, where I would volunteer my time after school.

My life experiences as a girl growing up in rural Kona has made me appreciate our Kona coffee, camping on the slopes of Mauna Loa above Capt. Cook,  and teaching others about our hula, chants, and cultural practices of the Native Hawaiians.

The quality of life in Kona is very special.  I see how we need to improve our health care system in Kona.  Many times, Kona residents have to fly to Honolulu in order to see a specialist.  Doctors are forced to leave Kona in order to make a decent living.  Our elderly population is growing, yet we do not have enough long term care facilites or services for our senior citizens.  For this reason, I see myself entering the medical field, working with the elderly in geriatrics.  I believe I can and will make a difference by one day returning to Kona, and work in the medical field.  The future holds many surprises,  and though the path I choose is not certain, I am sure that whatever I do, it will be for the benefit of others and society.