Youth growing up in Kalihi face many obstacles to success, but when role models like Vailima and Jerry Watson are around, success does not seem like such a journey away.
Founders and coaches of the Kalihi Youth Tennis Program, Vailima and Jerry Watson were both honored a certificate by Senator Mike Gabbard on Thursday.
Wife and husband, Vailima and Jerry have been recognized for their dedication and accomplishments in mentoring the keiki from the Kalihi community. Through the program, the keiki gain myriad character and confidence, building experiences not only through tennis, but health education, social development lessons and community service.
The Watsons were taken by surprise when they heard the good news.
"We're really honored and really surprised because it's not something we expect," said Vailima. "You know, we want to do stuff on behalf of the kids that's that's the most important thing. They're our future."
The children have been given the opportunity to play tennis in an environment where they also learn how to build relationships of trust and understanding. They are given the opportunity to discuss some of the most sensitive issues facing youth today including substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and violence.
Juggling coaching tennis at Farrington High School and for the Kalihi Youth Tennis Program, the Watsons fight to provide their students with every opportunity for success through an after-school tutoring program, access to computers, and their constant encouragement to pursue a higher education.
For 25 years, Vailima and Jerry have mentored over 1,000 youth, and are still going strong today.