Okamoto’s tennis helps with college costs

KAPA‘A — Kelli Okamoto, a Kapa‘a High School standout in the tennis program, was one of two Hawai‘i recipients of MassMutual Scholarships.

Okamoto, who was on the Warriors’ No. 1 Girls Doubles team, joined Sara Yoshinaga of Honolulu, according to a United States Tennis Association Web site.

“We know Sara, too,” said Nellie Okamoto, Kelli’s mom. “She was at the HHSAA state tournament and was the one that defeated Lyndsey Tom and went on to advance.”

MassMutual distributes college scholarships, two per USTA Section and one discretionary, to students entering a four-year college or university program.

Kelli Okamoto will be entering the Hawai‘i Pacific University in the fall, majoring in business.

“This is really good,” Okamoto said. “Now I have my housing taken care of for at least one semester.”

Okamoto, who is a member of the Kapa‘a High School Interact Club, was helping at the Rotary Club of Kapa‘a’s “Taste of Hawai‘i” event yesterday.

She is a recipient of a Hawai‘i Rotary Youth Foundation scholarship as well as the Long’s Drugs business scholarship, the HPU Presidential scholarship that will take care of her tuition, the Foodland scholarship and a scholarship from the North Shore Lions Club.

All totalled, Okamoto, one of eight valedictorians at the Kapa‘a graduation, earned more than $12,000 in scholarships.

The MassMutual scholarship is one of many scholarship programs administered by the USTA Tennis & Education Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life among the nation’s youth.

According to the USTA Web site, one goal is to encourage children to pursue their goals and highest dreams by succeeding in school and becoming responsible citizens. The USTA supports organizations that use tennis as a vehicle to help youngsters finish high school and qualify for college scholarships.

Okamoto said by attending HPU, she can still continue to play some tennis. And, she added, “the best part is I get to see Chaz play.”

Chaz Okamoto, her younger brother, will be entering Kapa‘a High School as a freshman in the fall. Based on his previous performances on the tennis court, he will in all probability try out for the Warrior tennis team.

“Originally, I wanted to try for a Mainland school,” Okamoto said. “But this way, I can still play some tennis, hopefully, and get to watch Chaz play.”

The MassMutual scholarship is presented to high school seniors who demonstrate academic excellence, community service, leadership and financial need.

“These scholarships demonstrate how tennis, when combined with good grades and community service, helps young people succeed in life,” said Karen Martin-Eliezer, executive director for the USTA, on the Web site.

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