Naka Nathaniel: Don’t Confine Our Keiki With Selfish Notions Of Traditional Success - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Naka Nathaniel

Naka Nathaniel spent much of his career as a journalist with The New York Times, helping launch, covering war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the collapse of the second tower on 9/11. He lives in Waimea on the Big Island. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at

There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for success, but children should have the option and a clear path for “making it” at home.

This is a crucial time for seniors as the school year starts to wind down. The question looms of what, and, importantly where, comes next for these students who suffered through the hardship of having the traditional school experience upended by the pandemic. 

My thinking used to be that I wanted young people from Hawaii (and the Pacific) to always seize the chance to go up against top-notch talent and prove not only that they belonged, but that they could thrive. 

And, ideally, as they thrived they could share and spread concepts from growing up in the Pacific with our distinctive cultures and approaches.

Lately, I’ve been rethinking my mindset, and in the past two columns I’ve challenged my thoughts about expectations and the difficulties of “making it” in Hawaii. I truly appreciate the comments, notes and posts in response to those columns. The feedback has been incredibly helpful in shaping my thoughts around the challenge.

So far, I’ve highlighted the perspectives of an Ivy League student from Hawaii and the chancellor of the University of Hawaii Hilo. This week, I want to share thoughts from a conversation I had with a mother whose 17-year-old son is not just one vast expanse of water away, but two.

At the start of the school year, I was excited to hear that Logan Waiau, the son of my cousin, Blaze, was in Germany playing goalkeeper at a year-round soccer academy. I was glad he had found an opportunity outside of Hawaii and had the courage to say yes. 

Logan is the inaugural goalkeeper for the U-18 team of Hui Kanaka Powawae, the Hawaiian Football Federation. Lee Cataluna wrote a story in February about the organization and its preparations to compete.

This isn’t going to be a hagiographic profile of a young athlete, but I covered the World Cup in Germany and lived in France for years, so I was happy to know Logan was going to be part of a pedigreed system that develops world-class soccer players. I was glad that he had the gumption to take on the challenge and truly commit to playing the game at its highest level, 12 time zones away from his ohana. 

Logan Waiau goalkeeper soccer Naka Nathaniel column
Logan Waiau is goalkeeper in the Talent Projekt program in Germany. (Courtesy of Daisy Vitanova)

I was also impressed that Logan’s parents Blaze and Jacy said yes.

This is the challenge for many students. They don’t have the complete support of their families. Many families aren’t financially, and just as importantly, emotionally able to support students who receive amazing opportunities.

When Jacy, Blaze, and Logan’s younger brother, Duke, visited him in Germany over spring break, she told Logan: “Don’t ever in your lifetime make decisions based on pleasing others. That’s a big, big mistake.”

Jacy, like any parent, can’t help but see her child’s situation through the lens of her own traditional Hawaiian high school experience.

“This is very unorthodox for us as a family,” Jacy said. “We grew up attending school here in Hawaii, playing sports, attending proms and graduations. We never had opportunities such as this, and to be honest I don’t believe that we would have pursued it even if we did.”

“If your dreams and goals don’t scare you they aren’t big enough.”

Goalkeeper Logan Waiau

She recalled asking Logan how he felt about missing events.

“He said, ‘of course I have times when I think about prom and graduation, but those are merely moments in time. You have this amazing night, and then it’s done. On the other hand, I have my love and passion which is soccer. I want to play at the highest level. Coming back home for those moments will take me completely away from that journey, my path.’”

Jacy said it was hard for her when Logan turned 17 in February while he was in Germany and his ohana was in Hawaii.

“Logan was a preemie, born three months early,” she said. “He weighed 2 pounds and 10 ounces when he was born and he was whisked off to (a hospital on) Oahu. I didn’t even get to touch him. This was the first birthday since he was born, that he was away from us. For his birthday, his teammates took him out to dinner, and had a great night celebrating him. When he returned to his dorm, he called us on FaceTime as he settled in and said, ‘Mom this was the first time that I didn’t get to hug you on my birthday.’”

Logan is lucky to live in the 21st century. A lot of serendipitous incidents need to occur for a goalkeeper from Hawaii island to defend nets in Germany. It is impossible to imagine that his talent would have been “discovered” two decades ago. Plus he can FaceTime his family twice a day.

“Is this the norm?” she asked. “Of course we want our keiki to be as close to us as possible. We want to be present, and share in all their experiences. But this is Logan’s journey.  It would be very selfish of us as parents to not support him in his pursuit of his dreams and goals.”

Not long ago, Logan sent a note to other athletes here in Hawaii.

He said, “Yes, it was scary and hard to leave home for so long.  But if your dreams and goals don’t scare you they aren’t big enough. When my path brings me home in the future, I plan to give back to our community. To eventually help coach, and also be able to share my experiences in Europe so that other kids know that with hard work anything is possible.”  

The whimsical notion of a young islander sailing off and finding adventure beyond the horizon has had a lifelong appeal to me. And there’s a long and proud tradition of Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders exploring the world.

But that shouldn’t translate into a one-size-fits-all formula for success. Young people who want to stay and “make it” at home, should have the option and a clear path to do so. 

As I continue to have conversations, I look forward to concluding this series next week with the help of a group of young people who came up with their own answers to the what, and where, comes next question.

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About the Author

Naka Nathaniel

Naka Nathaniel spent much of his career as a journalist with The New York Times, helping launch, covering war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the collapse of the second tower on 9/11. He lives in Waimea on the Big Island. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at

Latest Comments (0)

"If your dreams and goals don’t scare you they aren’t big enough." - Logan WaiauYour youth is the best time to be fearless.

elrod · 1 month ago

Scary but Cool !!Not every teenager/young adult can handle living abroad … but when they can,all the support & love to them and their Family !!

M_Walker · 1 month ago

I think it’s important that wherever you are raised that you travel to another place ,at a young age; to learn and grow and to be exposed to new ideas and different people. Each place has its unique trade-off and challenges and young people that do travel outside of Hawaii ,I believe,;become more open minded.

Swimmerjean · 1 month ago

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