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Danny Kaopuiki's

Kama`aina Profile

February 2009



INK……….what an awesome name for a person……it’s one of those unique names that appears destined to be identified only with one person! Most of you already have an idea who my Profile guest is as so much has previously been written about Ink Aleaga, whose marvelous exploits on the athletic field for the University of Washington are legendary. Has it really been nearly twenty years since Ink was a Hawaii High School All-State football star from (Pac-5) Maryknoll High School? Followed by being an All-Pac-10 first team linebacker from the University of Washington and then playing pro football for the New Orleans Saints? You have read about Ink the Athlete. What happens after all the glitz and glamour of being a high profile athlete diminishes?

Come meet Ink Aleaga, the Man!

I met Ink because he is involved, in a huge way, with a project that I have recently become a part of. Ink and I and others are trying to develop an infrastructure to help our children of Polynesia improve their academic performances in college and to help them graduate. Ink’s current position as an academic counselor places him right on the front lines of helping students at the University of Washington cope with the myriad of issues (academic, financial, social, family, et al) that the students face. Among his current projects, Ink is helping UW students Kiana Fuego and Nestor Equerra create a 10 week Pacific Islander Leadership course that they plan to have in place in 2009.

Ink Aleaga knows better than most the difficulties that Polynesian students face in college. He had to work hard academically but has earned a double major Bachelors degree (in Sociology and American Ethnic Studies) and a Masters degree (Education, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies) after initially not meeting SAT requirements for college!

It was in his 7th grade year at Aiea Elementary that Ink decided his ambition was to graduate from a four year college, a deviation from paths taken by so many others he knew, many of whom went to Junior Colleges or straight to work after high school. This “four year college dream” was even more difficult to comprehend as Ink had to take remedial reading classes during his elementary to high school years.

To meet Ink today is to meet a man who is really nice and quiet spoken but also very bright and articulate. His scholastic difficulties were more due to his desires than to his talents. Ink’s foremost passion in his younger days was athletics! He was very, very good at all sports and preferred to play rather than study. Ironically, he did not play football until he got into high school because in his youth, he was so much bigger than his peers that he was not allowed to play football with them. Ink’s sport of choice then was basketball.

Ink grew up in Halawa Housing, a low income housing project in the Aiea, Oahu area amongst neighbors who did not have a lot but shared what they had. The Halawa Housing neighborhood was a melting pot of ethnicities which helped shape Ink’s life philosophies of helping and sharing with others no matter where they come from.

Ink credits his family for always supporting his decision to take a different path to higher education and the Miyamoto family (Mel and Sandra and their children Michelle and Mark) with being among the biggest mentors he had when he was young. Ink’s older brothers introduced him to Milton Kanemoto who started Ink into weigh lifting at a young age and was also another mentor as Ink was growing up. Other mentors that Ink states had great impact on his life include his Pac-Five high school football coach Don Botelho, University of Washington football coaches Don James and Jim Lambright, New Orleans Saints coach Mike Ditka and, especially, then Saints line backers coach Jack Del Rio (whom Ink says is a tremendous person who taught Ink as much about life as about being a pro football linebacker!). Ink also states that being surrounded by good peers benefited his personal development and says “I was lucky to have good friends when I was growing up and I still have good friends now who keep me grounded and teach me new things about life!”

On the personal side, Ink met his wife Kelli (Kaneohe gal) when he had to substitute for a member of a wedding party in Hawaii. Kelli was also a member of that wedding party. Ink and Kelli now live in Burien, WA with their children Malia (a 9 year old gymnast) and Shane (a 6 year old budding basketball star).

Ink enjoys his Academic Counselor profession immensely as he is still closely involved with athletics but more because he has an opportunity to help student athletes who may be having difficulties. Ink’s dream is to continue in the athletics arena and maybe someday become an administrator in athletics. Ink has created a non-profit organization that holds football camps for Pacific Islanders here in Washington which has three objectives for those attending: to enhance their football skills while also preparing them for college and for life! I can’t think of a more qualified mentor for these triple tasks than Ink Aleaga!

Mahalo Ink Aleaga………….you da Man!!!!!!

Until next time, be kind to each other………me ke Aloha pumehana……….Danny


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