PEARL CITY (KHNL) - A foundation created in memory of a Pearl City High School teacher, who unexpectedly died earlier this year, handed out its first academic scholarship Friday. The foundation's goal is to assist students with special needs.
Lulumafuie Manaea wouldn't let Attention Deficit Disorder or speech problems slow him down. He graduated from Pearl City High this year, and is now enrolled at Weber State.
"No matter if you have a learning disability, if you have anything else, you can still go to college," Martha Manaea, mother, said.
With his mother on unemployment and his father awaiting disability benefits following a work injury, the teen sought help from the newly-established Kurt Y. Sonoda Foundation.
"Kurt was known for his compassion and generosity for others, but he always had a special place in his heart for his students," a spokesperson announced.
The foundation is named after a Pearl City special education teacher and golf coach, who died in May at the age of 45 from necrotizing fasciitis, commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria.
"Mr. Sonoda meant a lot to him. For four years, he was his teacher and his friend," Martha Manaea said through tears. "He was very saddened that, you know, he passed away right before graduation."
Now, Lulumafuie becomes the foundation's first scholarship recipient.
"It is with great pleasure, as Kurt's mother and his wife, Mako, for us to present to Lulu's family a $1,000 scholarship," Beatrice Sonoda, mother, said.
Lulumafuie is studying physical education and sign language. Inspired by Sonoda, he hopes to become a PE teacher for hearing-impaired and other special-needs students.
"He was always there for Lu, always there to help him," Martha Manaea said. "Having the scholarship will help him a lot."