Friday Features: 'Ohana Means Family' - Seven Hawaiians Making New England College Their Home

Friday Features: 'Ohana Means Family' - Seven Hawaiians Making New England College Their Home

HENNIKER, N.H. - Adjusting to life in college is an emotional roller coaster and adding the responsibilities of a student-athlete creates another up and down on the ride. Nevermind being roughly 5,000 miles away from home, across the Pacific Ocean.

The New England College Women's Volleyball Team has seven members hailing from the island state of Hawaii this season. Junior Tihani Ehia from Kaneohe, sophomore Jaycie Kodama from Pauoa Valley, sophomore Nyah Piper from Mililani, freshman Seachelle Rivera from Ewa Beach, freshman Tatiana Sampson from Kalaheo, freshman Amber Thi from Kalihi, and sophomore Shirita Wimberly from, Waipahu.

"Before I visited NEC, I thought that it was honestly just like any other college," recalled Ehia. "I visited the HUGE campuses in other states closer to home, but after visiting and being an athlete here for the past two years, it's more than a college, it's a community that you can rely on."

NEC is a member of the NCAA Division III New England Collegiate Conference (NECC), with an on-campus population of 1,060 in Henniker and 255 in Manchester, while sponsoring 21 varsity sports. This sense of being a home away from home is feeling felt amongst those who choose to attend.

"I believe that parts of the Hawaiian island culture can be found not only in the school but throughout New England," noted Piper. "In small towns, such as Henniker, there is a sense of belonging and community, which I feel is very relative to Hawaiian culture and nice to have on this side of the water."

Community and togetherness are important ideals that these young women have carried with them throughout their lives. "The culture back home is something that I cherish a lot because we really value Ohana (family)," noted Kodama. "I think being so far away from home, we still hang onto this custom because we Hawai'i girls are each other's family and home away from home."

Adjustment to life in New England includes a bit of a change in weather. Ehia, Kodama and Piper all shared the same feeling towards the chilly difference between the year-round humidity and warmth back home and the four change of seasons in New Hampshire, as beautiful to experience, once they became used to the cold.

While missing home can creep up on a college student, instead of focusing on the negative, these ladies do their best to bring the aloha spirit to NEC.

- Information for this release provided by the New England College athletic communications staff -

The NECC began competition in the 2008-09 academic year and current member institutions compete across 16 sports. The NECC membership focuses on providing athletic competition among institutions that share similar academic aspirations and are committed to the importance of the total educational experience for students engaged in sport. Bay Path University, Becker College, Eastern Nazarene College, Elms College, Lesley University, Mitchell College and New England College are the conference’s current members. For more information, please visit