Opinion: Can’t Take The Island From The Boy


La'a Gonsalves

Kaua’i is nicknamed the “Garden Isle” for its magically lush appearance.

When you’re young, all you wish for is to grow up. Once you’re grown up, all you wish for is to be young again. When I was young, I couldn’t wait to grow up. My friends and I would talk about where we wanted to go to college and all we would do when we turned 18. We would often confess wanting to go away to the mainland for school. 

As I got older, I realized how blessed I am to have grown up in Hawai’i. By the time I graduated from high school on Kaua’i in May 2020, I fell in love with my home island, and I knew that I never wanted to leave. 

Kaua’i has a population of just 73,454 and is the most underdeveloped out of the four main islands in Hawai’i. Because the Garden Isle is so small, everyone knows everyone, and it is a tight-knit community. 

I decided I wanted to go to college in the summer after my freshman year in high school. That summer I started to realize I wanted to play college soccer. I began to market myself by putting up highlight videos and reaching out to coaches. Throughout that process, I would receive a lot of attention from schools on the west and east coast. While the offers were generous, I just could not see myself living on the mainland for four years.

Throughout my high school career, there were some mainland schools that recruited me. I was excited about all the attention I was getting from these schools, but my parents would always ask me if I could see myself living there. There was a Division I school in Illinois that was interested in me. I looked at where Illinois was, and it was nowhere near Hawai’i. My parents explained to me that it’s a lot different than home. No rice, no ocean nearby, no family, very cold, and far from home.

I received the most interest from a college coach to play soccer when Chaminade coach at the time, Jason Abe, approached me after the 2019 Hawai’i state championship game. He began the recruiting process with me, and I went on a visit the very next year. I watched a practice, and a game and toured the campus. After that visit, something clicked and that’s when I decided I wanted to go to Chaminade.  

Two and a half years of living in Oahu, and all I’ve learned is that I can’t wait to move back home. Honolulu, O’ahu is very busy and can be dangerous for kids. My moped was recently stolen and you don’t want to be in certain areas at certain times of the day. Whenever I’m in town, I feel very stressed out because of how many people are constantly walking around in a small area.

Whenever I return home I feel whole and relaxed, I get a warm feeling every time I return to my beautiful island and family. When I’m home my mind is at ease and it is where I want to be after college and for the rest of my life. 

If you meet someone for the first time from Kaua’i, all you have to ask is their last name and you most likely know their family. It is the type of place where you could leave your door unlocked. I grew up playing with neighborhood kids on the road without my parents worrying about speeding cars hitting me.

Because of how safe my parents felt growing up there, they made it a priority to raise my brothers and me on Kaua’i. This is why I will always find my way back home and I want to start my future family there one day.