Aloha, Word of Life

There aren’t many schools that have produced as much talent on the gridiron and the hardwood as tiny Word of Life Academy did.

The school announced today that it will close its doors at the conclusion of this school year. I got word of it last night while covering boys volleyball at Punahou. It wasn’t a total shock; talk of WOLA’s financial struggles had gone on for a few months. Those of us who know their coaches and student-athletes could only hope — and pray — that the school could hang on until the economy turns around.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. So much talent came out of a high school of less than 300 students, it’s incredible. Football coach and athletic director Joe Onosai and girls volleyball coach Leeann Satele put their hearts and souls into developing young people. These weren’t just jocks out there competing with the best programs in the ILH. These were mature youngsters, playing with passion and obedient to their coaches — which is saying something in an age when society trumpets the whims of over-the-top professional and college athletes.

Part of me hopes, somehow, that Word of Life will be back someday. To see a football team sign hymns before a game, I’ll never forget that night at Nanakuli, when the Firebrands won their varsity debut. Small in number, but stout at heart. I can’t help but believe the Firebrands will have an impact in our world long after the uniforms and helmets have become distant memories.


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