Tiani Bello excelled at volleyball and Jenna Perry at soccer, while Megan Baguso made her name in tennis and Jaymie Kunitomo with soccer.
Bello (Kamehameha), Perry (Hawaii Prep), Baguso (Konawaena) and Kunitomo (Konawaena) are the latest and 18th edition of the Roy Fujimoto/KTA senior scholarship class. The scholarship program is named after the former BIIF executive director and is sponsored by KTA Super Stores and the league. The recipients, who each receive a $1,500 stipend, are chosen based on their athletic and academic achievement, as well as community service.
But more than their athletic achievements, it’s their career aspirations that really stand out.
Bello and Baguso want to become psychologists. Perry hopes to become an environmental engineer. Kunitomo wants to study molecular biology and genomics.
Here’s a look at the four scholarship winners:
• Tiani Bello
Patience was required from Bello to call herself a BIIF champion. The Warriors finished third her first two seasons and runner-up her junior year. Kamehameha took down Waiakea in 2019 to win its first BIIF title since 2014.
Bello, who had a 3.63 GPA, will head to Eckerd College in Florida. Her interest in psychology came from within.
“It was from my numerous health issues and always being in the hospital,” she said. “I know what it’s like to be a patient, and it drew my interest into helping others. I struggled mentally more than I ever did with my physical health.
“These obstacles motivated me to become a psychologist in the future and help others who are struggling with their mental health.”
Bello also played water polo and competed in track and field at Kamehameha.
Her health issues from a young age sparked her interest in helping others. At 5 years old, Bello suffered a seizure and was under a doctor’s care until age 12. She was limited in sports by low blood platelets. At 14, she had chronic hives because of an immune disorder.
“As a child, I faced adversity, and these obstacles made me have passion to learn more about the health field, and how I could one day give back to those in need,” she said.
• Jenna Perry
Her sister Julia in 2018 and brother Justin in 2016 also won the scholarship awards, but this wasn’t a legacy reward. Perry got in on her own merit.
Perry is a four-time state champion and held a 4.1 GPA. She’ll study environmental engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.
Still, she’s proud to follow in the footsteps of her siblings.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “We all want the best for each other. It’s been really fun pushing each other to the limit to see how much we can do,” Perry said.
Perry and her family are best known for soccer. Her father, Stephen Perry, is the HPA girls coach. But she counts water polo as a memorable experience.
In her sophomore year, she got out of her comfort zone and joined water polo. She wasn’t a swimmer nor did she know much about the sport. It was a challenge for her, but in her senior year she was named captain.
Environmental engineering was an easy fit for Perry, who spent much of her free time volunteering as a tutor.
“Environmental engineering will improve air quality,” she said. “It’s about making more efficient renewable energy. That’s the main focus, and there are different ways to do that.”
• Megan Baguso
Baguso learned early about the competitive nature of sports when as a junior she reached the HHSAA state tennis tournament in doubles. Her opponent was also from Konawaena.
“I was afraid my energy level would not be the same,” she said. “I learned to set aside my personal feelings and play the game. I realized in sports you have to stick with your passion because without it you will not achieve anything.”
When she was 8 years old, her family moved from the Philippines to Hawaii. She overcame the language barriers and will study psychology at either Saint Louis University or Lehigh University.
She made the most of her time to prepare herself for college. Baguso was involved in extracurricular activities and volunteer work. She will be the first in her family to attend college. Saint Louis is located in Missouri, and Lehigh is in Pennsylvania. Baguso will be far from home but learning to help others.
“I want to help people who are struggling mentally and emotionally,” she said. “I have known people who have suffered depression and resorted to self-harm, so I wanted to understand why it comes to that and learn how I can help. Majoring in psychology would also open up many career opportunities as well as help me grow as a person.”
• Jaymie Kunitomo
Kunitomo was a master at time management because she was involved in tennis, soccer, and bowling, was senior class president, served in the community and worked part time.
She was on the girls BIIF championship soccer team that finished in a tie for third with Pearl City at the state championships.
Kunitomo finished with a 4.16 GPA and will major in molecular biology/genomics.
Her interest came from her family’s health history.
“It explains why things happen and why people are the way they are,” she said. “I’d like to go into genetic counseling because of my grandparents. My grandma had Parkinson’s and my grandpa had liver cancer. I’d like to find a way to give families answers. Why does that happen?”
Kunitomo received a strong endorsement from Joan Chong, who was an extension educator with UH-Manoa for 28 years and saw her work at KAMP (Kindergartners Are Most Precious).
The day camp program is held before the beginning of school and the main purpose is to allow a child to separate from a parent, not always an easy task.
“Jaymie always came up with creative ways to make the time away from the parents enjoyable for the child,” Chong said. “Whether reading to kindergartners, playing with them or teaching them a skill, Jaymie has been an excellent role model, teacher, mentor, and friend to hundreds of kindergartners each year.”
Most times, it works best when little ones can see someone open their heart and show that they care.