CWU’s Manoa a Force to Reckon With

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A hundred yards from the CWU women’s rugby team’s practice, you can hear distinct yelling coming from players constantly motivating each other.
The closer you get, you can begin to make out who is who and where these voices are coming from.

Among the loudest and most vocal calls to keep pushing themselves is Yana Manoa, second year flanker from Oakland, California.

If you’ve been to a women’s rugby game, you might know Manoa as a sure tackler and aggressive athlete.

Her speed allows her to be effective on both sides of the ball and it does not go unnoticed.

“Yana is one of our most physical players on the field,” head Coach Mel Denham said. “Her true strength is the fact that she is a dynamic, fast runner as well.”

Manoa’s rugby journey began when she was a sophomore in high school, out of admiration for her brothers. She grew up hearing stories from her father and siblings that made her grow curious about ruby.

The rest is history.

After playing two years of high school rugby, she was already being recruited to play collegiate rugby.

Manoa recalls being in class and receiving a call from Denham about possibly playing for CWU.

“It was during school,” Manoa said. “I got a phone call that said ‘Hello, this is Mel Denham from Central,’ so I ran out of class.”

While receiving an opportunity to continue playing was exciting, it meant more than just a chance to play rugby.

It meant pursuing her education and making her family proud.

“My mom was really happy because I’m the first one of her kids to go to a university,” Manoa said. “My dad was really happy, too. It was all good emotions but they also reminded me to stay focused.”

Although her talents and natural athletic abilities come on full display during games, Manoa will be the first to tell you that none of this comes easy.

In the Tongan culture –and all other Polynesian cultures—family plays a huge role in your life and leaving them can often times be difficult.

“Last year I broke down and didn’t want to continue school, but my teammates really helped me,” Manoa said. “They helped realize I was doing this for my family and myself.

Manoa is pursuing her degree in photography and wants to someday have her own business. Despite the hardships, she believes that hard work and paying attention to the little things are what help you reach your goal.

“I don’t like when people just say, ‘Oh you’re good at tackling,’” Manoa said. “I would watch videos on tackling and slow-motion videos of myself because it’s those little things that make a difference.

I didn’t just wake up one day good at tackling.”

Manoa’s work ethic separates her from others and she is representing much more than just herself.

She is playing for her Tongan culture, family and her belief in God.

“Although [my family] isn’t here, I still carry their last name and I have to make them proud,” Manoa said.

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Dear PR Guest Speaker,

This is my blguestspeakerthumbog about you. Take it how you want, but it’s going to be the most honest take on what your visit to my class was like.

Why?

Because I’m running out of things to write about and it’s MY blog.

Guest speaker, you came into our class on time, I walked in late. That’s about right.

Nevertheless I thought you were funny, smart and helpful.

You work for a local company here in Ellensburg although, you know that, and you’re their “marketing Person.”

Yes, that is a direct quote from you.

You also talked about books, but yeah, you lost me there.

I don’t read so I’m sorry if I tuned out during that part.

What I did enjoy very much was your advice.

Some cliché, (I originally wrote “so” in-between some and Cliché) some helpful and some straight up eye opening.

Here’s what you had to say:

“Fail daily.”

If you’re not failing then you’re not trying. Welp, makes perfect sense to me.

“Read more than your friends do.”

Eh, you know how I feel about that.

“Be willing to try things.”

Yea Glendal, get out there man.

“Kindness is honesty.”

Okay, this one is pretty real. Honestly. Honesty is the best form of kindness. It keeps things authentic and you’re never trying to cover anything up.

You made it clear that you don’t have to be a jerk, but honesty is key.

This has given me the confidence to be honest without being mean, hence this blog that I am writing.

“You’re not doing things right if you don’t get negative feedback.”

Every athlete that I admire says the same thing.

Once upon a time I too was an aspiring athlete, and I know exactly what you mean.

I hate Kobe Bryant.

Why? Because every year he beat out my favorite team, I admire him, but he was always too great for my fandom to overcome.

Watching the way you conducted yourself during the time you visited my class made me feel human again.

When you made funny comments, you didn’t laugh at them. You skipped over them as if you didn’t intend them to be funny.

You talked abut your life’s work in a nonchalant way that I could identify with.

The truth is, I’m scared about my future.

I can’t confidently say I know where I will be in five years and I can’t confidently say I will be successful

What I can say is, a chill guy who reminded me of myself came into my classroom, and told me that I can be whatever I wanted to be

That, more than anything, will be all that I ever needed.

The Problem with Blogging for Class

Okay, let’s set the record straight. I like to blog. It allows me to give my perspective, opinions and tell stories.

It’s a great way to set a personal brand for yourself and a great way to– if your a decent writer– showcase your skills

But in most of my PR classes we have blogs due every week and we submit them via twitter or the internet and blogging has kind of lost its flare.

If it was up to me I would turn it in personally.

Also, to my professors reading this, don’t take it personal.

I’m simply saying what most of my peers want to but won’t.

After all I’ve been taught by most of you that at the end of the day this is MY blog and I can write whatever I want.

Despite my complaining, blogging has been a good experience and I’ve had some success as a modern day blogger with blogs like “The Annoying Yet inevitable Stereotype of being a Polynesian College student,” and “How to do Homework and Hangout With Friends.”

In 7 or 8 blogs I had already accumulated over 15,000 views and visits and talked about a lot of issues I genuinely care about.

I’ve even had a Popular Polynesian author comment and send me words of encouragement which was pretty cool.

but only because I was in the writing mood.

Key phrase: “In the writing mood.”

Now some may say, “Well then what’s the problem?” or “What about when you’re on the job and you don’t feel like writing?”

Well let’s break it down.

Blogs are a personal reflection of your thoughts on whatever the heck you want to talk about.

The catch?

You publish them online.

The world-wide web.

For the whole world to see.

When you post anything you are subjecting yourself to world-wide criticism.

Since blogging I’ve been corrected on how to spell the word “principal,” not “Principle,” and told that by having grammatical errors i am “perpetuating negative Polynesian stereotypes.”

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One time a blog was due the same week one of my older brothers was being charged for a crime and facing a substantial amount of jail time.

Like a good student, I wrote a blog even though i didn’t feel like it and submitted it online before once again facing negative feedback.

Don’t get me wrong, I have tough skin, but when you’re already down, don’t feel like writing and then are criticized for those same pieces you never wanted to write and publish online in the first place?

It’s overwhelming, dangerous and irritating.

Some of you may still be saying to get over it and stop complaining. Don’t worry I’ve already been told how I’m supposed to act as a Samoan student.

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You want to respond and say something like “I didn’t even want to write this.” But why?

It’s too late for that.

To be fair, I’ve had many send me notes of encouragement and love. I’ve had people thank me for my writing and have–in little ways– inspired people with my experiences and telling stories.

I love this about blogging.

I enjoy writing from a personal perspective and sharing my beliefs with others.

Just not on someone else’s conditions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Last quarter.

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Yesterday I talked about graduation. I explained feelings of joy and excitement and what a proud accomplishment it will be when I walk across that stage in front of my family.

But I’d be lying if I told you that happiness is all I’d feel.

FEAR:

Uncertainty scares me. Sure, I’ll have a piece of paper that says I’m qualified to do some things, but that doesn’t mean ill do them.

Now I’m not saying I don’t think I’ll be okay, but I just don’t know what’s next and that’s a little scary.

It doesn’t help that most students stare at me wide-eyed and in awe when i say “I don’t know what’s next,” but i try to act cool and collective like I know what I’m doing.

Truth is, I don’t

What I do know is that I’m going home to a family and community who is depending on me.

To be a leader. To influence change. To serve.

And that’s scary too.

UNDESERVING:

I don’t need anyone to tell me that I deserve it. I know I do, but sometimes I feel like I don’t.

I can’t quite explain it.

From the beginning, when I got to college and realized how different I was as a student of color, different class and different culture I immediately felt as if i didn’t belong.

Do I still feel that way? Not completely.

But for some reason I feel as if graduation still will not make me feel like i belong.

I hate that.

SAD:

I’m not gonna miss the homework.

I’m not gonna miss relaxing on a Saturday or Sunday night when that “oh sh**,” feeling hits you and you realize you have an assignment due in a couple hours.

But I will miss the people and the experiences college has offered me.

It’s not about the fun or the going out, but I’ve grown so much since freshman year.

I’m a completely different person, and leaving a place where I’ve done so much learning, growing and living will be hard.

I’ve worked through some of the hardest times of my life here. I’ve met people who have changed me and leaving that will be hard.

Doubt:

Lastly, sometimes I don’t believe in myself. Where I’m from, there aren’t many examples of people who have graduated college and can tell you what life is like post-education.

I have so many questions.

What if I’m not good enough?

What if I fail?

What if this is the wrong career path?

What if I can’t find a job?

So many feelings at once and I don’t know how to handle them.

I think experience will provide all the answers I need and there is really only one way to deal with it all.

Keep moving forward. I need to make sure that these feelings aren’t going to stop me from at least doing that.

 

 

Drowning in leis

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If there is one thing I appreciate about my Samoan culture, and most Polynesian cultures for that matter, it is the way we celebrate graduation.

To many graduation is important, to others it is a simple stepping stone in life, but to Samoans? It feels like the BIGGEST deal in the world.

Naw, for real.

Like you just won the Super Bowl on the game winning throw.

And saved someones life on the way to the end zone.

While the stadium was on fire.

You get the point. it’s pretty epic.

With that said, Summer is right around the corner and soon enough myself– and many other Polynesians around the world– will have a Facebook, Twitter and instagram feed full of outlandish amounts of leis on one poor Poly kids neck as he teeters around trying to take pictures with his hundred-something long line of relatives.

When i say “outlandish,” i mean exactly that. Your lucky if these intricate homemade leis filled with money, candy (sometimes food) and many other gifts allow you to see through the crevices of their plastic, let alone breathe.

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Me (left) and my brothers Jordan (right) and Christian (middle) celebrating Christians graduation from Western Washington University.

This past summer was perhaps the craziest.

I saw blown up cut-outs of kids faces, large 10 x 10 ft. quilts with their students names stitched into its fabric, and my personal favorite:

Humongous crowns made of money.

It was like every family was competing for who gave their child the best celebration, gifts and love.

At first i thought it was funny and sometimes over the top, but then i thought, why? why do we do this? is it really that important?

The answer now that my college graduation is months away is conveniently, YES! haha

Seriously though, why not? Now don’t get me wrong, we don’t need any of that stuff because we know we are loved, but I love that my culture allows us to celebrate their kids successes in the largest way possible.

I know that I’ve worked hard to get here and that college wasn’t easy. My parents didn’t go to college, so i had to figure a lot of this stuff out on my own and it’s okay to be proud.

I also love how much that support motivates me.

Senior-itis is real and being so close to done makes you want to take your foot off the gas right?

Naw.

Not with my support system. Not with the greeting party that will be waiting for me when i finally do it!

So Poly families, keep celebrating each other. It’s not about the parties, money or celebration. It’s about telling each other how proud we are.

It’s about acknowledging our gifts and celebrating our successes.

Because at the end of the day, your kids know that they’re drowning in so much more than just leis!

 

 

Growing up, Birthdays Didn’t Mean Much.

Growing up, birthdays didn’t mean much.

Now don’t get me wrong, my families outrageous tradition of singing happy birthday as loudly and off key as possible is something we all look forward to, but it’s just another day to me and my siblings.

It’s not cause were stuck up or unloved, in fact, we’re the complete opposite.

But when you’re family is struggling and you’re thinking about things like when the next time you’re going to eat? Or ‘are we going to eat?’ There’s not a lot of time to think about birthdays.

Again, that’s not to say we didn’t have enough, because my family always made the impossible happen out of nothing, but birthdays always took a backseat to far greater worries.

Years later not much has changed. I am in my last year of college and of course, worries are stacked on top of worries.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy my birthday, but it does mean I’ll settle for a dinner with friends, a few happy birthdays and call it a night.

Boy was I wrong.

My days are busy between two jobs, classes, homework and our CWU Polynesian club so naturally I kept to my schedule.

Went to class, went to one of my jobs, got a short workout in and went straight to Polynesian dance practice.

Before practice I informed other leaders of the group that I would be leaving early to get ready for a dinner that my girlfriend planned and that they should join when they got done.

They said they would come and so I went home and got ready.

My girlfriend arrived at my house at 8 o’clock and when i got in the car she said “Okay here, put this on.” She has a lavalava (traditional Samoan garment) in her hand tied into a blindfold and now i’m like “hold up, wait. Why?”

She proceeds to tell me that she made me a gift and that if I saw where we were going I’d know what the gift was.

I play along because I really do appreciate the effort and her excitement, so i toss on the blindfold.

We drive for about 7 minutes until we park and she helps me out of the car. I can’t see a thing and every step feels like I’m going to bump into something so I’m not feeling this blindfold thing anymore.

We walk thru the cold, into a building, and now I’m thinking “Okay, what the heck is going on?”

She slowly guides my small fearful steps through a hallway, we turn left and I feel myself walking through streamers.

Before I could realize what was happening, the blindfold is stripped off my face and there stood my CWU Polynesian family.

SUURRRRPRRRIIIIISSSEEE!

 

Turns out my girlfriend tirelessly planned a surprise birthday party and with the help of my friends they pulled it off.
People continued to tell me how much I meant to them over the course of that night and I couldn’t help but continuously remind everyone that it was them who brings me joy.At first i felt so undeserving of everyone’s love, but as the night went on i realized that that was not what that night was about.Growing up, birthdays didn’t mean much.But this night was about celebrating life and for once, letting it mean something.Displaying IMG_0183.PNG

 

 

Jordan Tufaga: Rushing to the line-up

When you aren’t heavily recruited, that feeling on your shoulder is more like a chip, pushing you to prove that you are just as good–or better.

For running back Jordan Tufaga, a preferred walk-on for CWU during his freshman year, this feeling is all too familiar.

Tufaga’s football journey began in the 2nd grade and he hasn’t missed a season since.

Unsure, but inspired by his father and brother who both played the game, Tufaga decided he’d give football a shot and it wasn’t long before his natural talent emerged.

“My second year playing there was an onside-kick that I picked up and scored,” Tufaga said. “that’s when my coach asked if I wanted to play running back and I said no.”

Eventually, Tufaga’s father, a person he attributes much of his success to, encouraged him to play the position.

“[My dad] said ‘just try it,’ so I did.”

Little did they know, that decision to play running back would ultimately give way to the opportunity to play college football.

Not very many scouts visit Alaska to recruit football players, but a football camp held by Tufaga’s high school coach also happened to be a camp that Ian Shoemaker, CWU football’s head Coach, has participated in for the last three summers.

“While I was up there I got a chance to meet Jordan and his father,” Shoemaker said. “Jordan was coming out at that time and it was a great opportunity for us to add a guy I thought was pretty athletic and did some good things.”

Although there was interest in Jordan’s abilities, his battle was far from over. Jordan would be offered an opportunity as a preferred walk-on and would have to earn his spot and scholarship.

“You can kind of tell who’s on scholarship and the guys who aren’t,” Tufaga said. “At first you feel like just a guy on the practice squad. I kind of felt out of place, but I knew I was good enough to be on the team.”

Along with fighting to see the field, Tufaga is also balancing school and—like many Polynesian athletes—getting used to life away from his main support system: his family.

“It’s hard not being able to actually see my family,” Tufaga said. “But I know this is what my dad would want me to do and my family is proud of me for doing this. It’s about representing the family.”

And that’s exactly what Tufaga did.

After his first year as a walk-on, the coaching staff at CWU decided during the offseason that he had earned himself a partial scholarship.

“He was named one of the top offensive scouts,” Shoemaker said. “It goes into academics, weight lifting and all the things that we ask our guys to do and he showed us that he’s able to do that.”

In a year’s time, Tufaga went from working for a spot to making impressive plays on game days.

With 429 all-purpose yards, a blocked punt against Azusa Pacific University and two touchdowns on the season, Tufaga is lucky his dad encouraged him to play running back at a young age.

As the accolades and stats continue to pile up for Tufaga, he acknowledges the journey and wants other Polynesian athletes to know that nothing comes easy.

“You need perseverance. Nothing comes easy,” Tufaga said. “You can be athletically gifted like many Polynesian kids are, but there’s books, community involvement and many other things. Many of you will have to leave your families, so just be prepared to push through it.”