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Being Big Brother Is More Than It Seems, Saint Louis Grad Says

Koali'i Ladao has spent time each week at Ali'iolani Elementary School with his Little Brother, Kama. The relationship nurtured between the two over the past two years led to Ladao being recognized as Oahu 2014 School-based Big Brother of the Year. Photo from Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawaii.

Koali’i Ladao has spent time each week at Ali’iolani Elementary School with his Little Brother, Kama. The relationship nurtured between the two over the past two years led to Ladao being recognized as Oahu 2014 School-based Big Brother of the Year. Photo from Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawaii.

Koali’i Ladao knew something was up when he spotted his mom at Ali’iolani Elementary School while he was working with Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawaii.

However, he didn’t know it involved him until the announcement was made. That’s how he found out he’d been chosen as 2014 Oahu School-based Big Brother of the Year.

“It was very unexpected and surprising,” Ladao admitted about the award, which recognizes good mentoring and positive progress in the school year.

The recent Saint Louis graduate said he initially joined the group because he needed community service hours, “but as I went through the program, it was being with my Little (that made me want to stay) — seeing how he acted when I was around versus when he was in school.”

Ladao has spent time with his Little Brother Kama for two years at Ali’iolani, a campus just down the hill from Saint Louis. But the relationship has mutual benefits, he discovered. “I feel grateful I can change a little boy’s perspective about the world, but I don’t only teach him. He teaches me to appreciate the little things.”

Their weekly meetings at the Kaimuki school always end with a fist bump, and Ladao said they have “almost the same” mindset about the world.

He’ll study mechanical engineering in the fall at Northern Arizona University, but Ladao believes he’ll be taking some lessons from Kama and BBBS with him. “I learned what ignorance really is — in the sense that before I started the program, I wouldn’t really help others. I wasn’t selfish, but just aware of myself.

If someone was better than me, I always made an excuse (for myself).

“As I went through the program, I saw my childhood self in Kama and how playful he was. He knows he’s the smartest in the room, yet he’s still humble, he’s not ignorant.

So what I got out of it was not to be ignorant, to look past it and see what’s actually there.”

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