Her grandmother, Verda Roy, always encouraged her to bring home the bacon.
In more ways than one, Lita Taumoefolau did just that over the past four years, leaning on Ke Kula O Ehunuikaimalino cultural guidelines she’ll use for the rest of her life.
Keauhou Canoe Club awarded Taumoefolau, a recent Ehunuikaimalino graduate, with its $1,000 Mike Haines Merit Scholarship.
Taumoefolau also earned a $500 academic/athletic scholarship from the Betty C. Kanuha Foundation.
In most conversations, the phrase “bring home the bacon” refers to earning a salary required to function in daily life.
In that sense, the scholarship money has helped Taumoefolau bring home the bacon, giving her some help to pay for an education at Hawaii Community College.
But for Roy, the phrase meant victory.
“(It meant) bring home the gold,’’ said Taumoefolau, who has considered becoming a Hawaiian language teacher.
Taumoefolau experienced success at grand stages in a myriad of sports while playing for Konawaena.
A three-year starter at middle blocker, she helped the Wildcats’ volleyball team post an undefeated regular-season record and reach the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament for the first time in years last fall.
In the winter season, Taumoefolau helped Konawaena’s girls basketball team win state titles in 2009 and 2012, and she also played for Wildcat softball teams that won Big Island Interscholastic Federation titles in 2010 and 2011.
The way Taumoefolau conducted herself during those victories — and losses — may have proved more valuable for coaches and teammates.
Ehunuikaimalino played a big role in molding Taumoefolau into who she is.
In addition to teaching basic core classes, Taumoefolau’s teachers and administrators at Ehunuikaimalino, a Hawaiian immersion school, also demand humility, respect for elders and a strong knowledge of Hawaiian ancestry from their pupils.
During Ehunuikaimalino’s graduation week, Taumoefolau made her own kupee lei, partook in a day of fasting that included a cleansing ritual and chanted her genealogy nine generations back.
“She is very respectful, engaging, and she’s not ashamed at all of her Hawaiian and Polynesian ancestry,’’ said former Ehunuikaimalino principal Tim Lino. “She exuded an attitude of strong Hawaiian cultural values such as respect and ohana and working cooperatively and doing her best in representing the school, her family and community in the most honorable way.”
It’s that kind of educational background that made Taumoefolau what Konawaena girls volleyball coach Kahinu Lee calls “a humble, funny and good person.’’
At 5-foot-11, Taumoefolau — and several other teammates — often towered over opponents on the other side of the volleyball net, allowing her to easily pound down kills to the floor. But Taumoefolau said she never used her size to intimidate.
“We didn’t want to smash a team to the point where we would shame them,’’ said Taumoefolau, also a member of Konawaena’s soccer and track and field teams, a paddler for both Keauhou and Kai Opua canoe clubs and a hula dancer. “It would show that we didn’t care.”
If anything, Lee said, Taumoefolau was the exact opposite of intimidating. If players on the team needed someone to talk to, they’d always turn to Taumoefolau. “She was that person, when she needed to be hard on the girls, she was there,’’ Lee said. “In the same sense, as far as to be that teammate that friend, to be compassionate, she was also there.”
All are characteristics that contribute to an intangible all coaches value: chemistry.
“She was always that one piece you needed to make it work,’’ Lee said.