By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Liz Kia has an academic scholarship and financial aid package to Newbury College, and she visited the Division III school in Brookline, Mass., during the week of the Boston Marathon bombing, an eye-opening and life-changing experience.
The recent Kamehameha graduate had a Big Island Interscholastic Federation softball game on Tuesday, April 16, and flew out that night. The bombing took place the day before, killing three people and injuring 264 others.
When she arrived at the school, about 15 minutes away from the finish line on Boylston Street, surrounding areas were in lockdown. She stayed in the dormitories, where Kia spent time talking with other students and athletes.
After the manhunt ended on Friday of that week with two suspects apprehended, Kia and her fellow Nighthawks visited the site of the bombing the next day, and witnessed the destruction, feeling the tragedy that hung everywhere.
“The day after they caught the guy, we went to the marathon finish line,” Kia said. “They were cleaning stuff and you could see blood on the ground. Being around that atmosphere, you saw it on the news, and you feel bad when you’re there in person. You take it to heart. It was horrible what happened.”
She called her parents, Bernard and Shelly Kia, every day from the dorms during the lockdown. They knew she was safe. But her dad also knew that the cocoon a parent builds to protect their child from the ugliness of the world had been shattered.
“She realized the world is not always a safe place. She was reluctant to leave, but I told her that’s life and that’s the world,” Bernard Kia said. “You can’t let anyone or anything not let you do what you want to do in your life.
“She called every day during the lockdown. She realized there are good people out there, who want to keep you safe. She came back with her eyes more wide open. That shelter you kind of put up around your kids, she realized that’s why parents say certain things and she understood all that stuff.”
Kia, who graduated with a 3.46 grade-point average and plans to major in psychology, is going to play softball and soccer for the Nighthawks. She’s going far from home, more than 5,000 miles away. She is going there despite having no family or friends in Massachusetts.
She grew up in Long Beach, Calif., and the family moved to Hilo about 10 years ago. Kia also went to Australia during an excursion in seventh grade. She calls herself a “daddy’s girl,” but Liz Kia has been an independent thinker from her youth.
“She’s the mother-hen type,” her dad said. “If she went to college with someone, she would make sure that person was OK and help out if not. When she was young, she said she wanted to go to the East Coast. When she goes, she can explore on her own.”
Unfortunately, Liz Kia and her family are not related to Kia Motors, the automobile manufacturer that pulled in over $3 billion in profits last year.
Her dad, who works at Helco, drives a Ram truck and her mom Shelly has a Honda. Her brother Solomon, an upcoming Kamehameha sophomore, will have the third car, another Honda, all to himself when Kia leaves in August.
“Every single new place I go, I get asked if I’m related to the car company,” joked Kia, who used the website ncsasports.org to hook up with the Nighthawks.
At Kamehameha, she played goalie sparingly, used mostly in mop-up soccer games, and first base for softball. She landed on the All-BIIF Division II softball second team.
She will not only be a full-time student, but also a full-time athlete as well. Kia will need a good alarm clock as well as warm clothes. She will be cold and busy on the East Coast.
“I talked to the soccer coach (Giovanni Viana) and he assured me that the classes end before 1 p.m. and you have games after that or practice at 2:30 p.m. Then you have mandatory study hall, and you have to sit there and do all your work,” she said. “I was sold on the school with the small class size. I went to different classes with the girls. It was very interactive. I like to pose questions and have discussions. That’s better than listening to people lecture you the whole time.
“When I went up, it was pretty cold. You had to wear jeans and a jacket every single day. The day time got warmer, but at night the temperature would drop and you couldn’t go anywhere without a scarf. The school is European-looking. It’s made from bricks and I like the cobblestone walkways. The atmosphere is amazing at the school.”
The late Martin Luther King Jr. once said this about the function of education: “It is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.”
Bernard Kia said this about his daughter’s journey to higher education: “She’s been focused on whatever things she has to do, whether it’s sports or school, through hard work and determination. She’s really head strong and that’s something I admire about her. Every year, she’s worked harder and harder to accomplish her goals. As parents, we’ve done everything we could to get her on point. She’s headed on her way.”