June 6, 2012
"They're always surprised," Akeo says. "The first question is usually: `Why?' They think we live in big beach houses and go to the beach every day. It isn't like that. We go to school, work, just like everyone else."
Well, maybe not just like everyone else.
Akana admits she can hold her own on a surfboard. Akeo can speak the original Hawaiian language, and has danced the Hula since she was three. In April she performed the dance with Siena's Polynesian Culture Club, a group she helped form as a freshman.
Most are also surprised to learn the 5'3" Akeo, and not-quite 5'7" Akana, are two of the best volleyball players ever to come through Siena's storied program. Akeo will likely graduate as the program's all-time leader in digs, and Akana was the 2011 MAAC Player of the Year after leading the conference in kills.
The chance to play for a successful Division I volleyball program was a major reason both students decided to make the 4,956 mile voyage to Loudonville, but it was equally critical the College have an excellent business school.
Each has taken full advantage of both opportunities.
Akeo carries a 3.7 grade point average in management, and Akana, a marketing major, posted a perfect 4.0 in the fall, raising her GPA to 3.9.
They describe their Siena education as a transformative experience.
"Siena has really helped me analyze market techniques, and think of issues more analytically and intellectually," Akana said. "The class lessons relate to the real world. I really enjoy learning that way."
Akeo's development has been more personal. "Siena's made me much more independent. I know I'm managing my life now, and I've grown to trust people more."
Both see a career in business on the horizon, but they're in no rush to get there. Akeo would like to travel the world, and Akana might be able to play beach volleyball professionally.
"We're on Hawaiian time," Akeo jokes. "That was the biggest adjustment coming here. Everyone is in such a hurry. People are always racing by us on the way to class. We walk really slowly."
Success is a journey, not a destination.