Freshman Keanalanimeleo’kekai Kunz, who goes by Kea for short, feels at home whenever she’s in the water. Her name even translates to pure one from heaven with the voice of the ocean. The Hawaiian native has always lived a few minute’s walk from the ocean, where waters are clear, blue and warm year round. Kea has surfed as a hobby for as long as she can remember, and also dedicated years of her life to competitive water polo and swimming. When it came time for her to make a college selection, Kea was certain about one thing – she needed to attend a college that had a pool.
Kea has always loved her hometown of Laie on the island of Oahu, and especially the laid back, fun-loving lifestyle that she shared with her many friends and large family. In fact, Kea wasn’t sure if she would ever want to leave, but decided to push herself outside of her comfort zone and explore colleges on the mainland, focusing on universities in California. She even shared some of her best swimming race times on a website designed to connect prospective students with college coaches and recruiters. The University of Olivet was one of the many schools who expressed their interest in Kea. It ended up being a perfect match.
“Michigan isn’t even on my map,” Kea joked, “I thought I’d attend college in Hawaii or maybe California, but I can’t believe I’m in Michigan. I wanted to push myself to try something new, and I developed an idea of what it would be like to be away from my parents from all the traveling I did with my high school teams. OC showed me that I cared, and gave me the most support from day one. The people that I’m around here, especially my roommate, have really helped me not be homesick.”
In the pool, Kea has experience competing in the freestyle, butterfly and breaststrokes races, and even on relay teams. She has a unique connection with first-year head coach Rob Brownell as they each settle in to life as Comets. One of the first challenges Coach Brownell issued was for each swimmer to set personal goals. At just the first meet, Kea beat all four goals she had set for herself and couldn’t be more thrilled or surprised with her own performance.
“I am so excited for this season because I really don’t know how fast I can swim,” Kea explained. “I have a great coach and teammates motivating me and I feel like there’s no ceiling to what we can accomplish together. My high school seasons were only about three months long, but the college season is closer to six months long. That’s going to allow me to have twice as much time to push myself to improve and really reach my full potential.”
Kea is equally excited to explore the possibilities within her biology major. While she isn’t sure which field of science she wants to shape her career in, Kea loves the outdoors and has a special interest in environmental science. Seeing new plants and animals like OC’s great oaks, white tailed deer, squirrels and even fireflies has been one of Kea’s favorite parts of living in Michigan. She also finds surgeries fascinating and loves the idea of being able to help others by working in the medical field.
Right now, Kea is preparing for her first Michigan winter, and relying on her friends to borrow some warm clothes. Kea’s roommate, Ana, is an international student from Mexico and also a member of the swimming and diving team. Kea credits Ana with so much more than just combating homesickness and lending her some warmer clothes, she’s also pushed Kea to get involved on campus and make as many new friends as she can. Kea took the plunge to join OC’s ATHENA International Women’s Leadership Program, a yearlong training program dedicated to helping female students develop the building blocks for success in today’s global society.
Kea’s success on athletic teams has shown her the importance of women supporting and motivating each other, and is a skill she knows will be useful in her future career. “I thought the program sounded really interesting and addressed important issues,” Kea said. “I’m a strong communicator and really liked the idea of further developing my skills while building off of other women.”
While Kea still misses having rice with every meal and fried Spam, she’s certain she’s found the right college fit and is looking forward to the opportunities and experiences coming her way. Leaving her comfort zone was the most difficult decision Kea has ever had to make, but the payoff has been incredibly rewarding.
Learn more about OC’s swimming and diving team, campus life and resources for out of state students by applying, scheduling a campus visit, or contacting the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or email@example.com.