No matter what hat he may be wearing at the time, Guy Shimabukuro has the same goal when working with youth. “We’re trying to develop each child as an overall person, not just on the court or on the field, but in the classroom, in the community, and at home. We’re trying to build a complete child,” he said.
The HSTA Friend of Youth Award recognizes an outstanding member of the community who works to support Hawaiʻi’s youth through an activity outside of their professional duties.
Our 2021 winner, Guy Shimabukuro, demonstrates a passion and commitment to mentoring keiki that goes far beyond his day job as the cafeteria manager at ʻIliahi Elementary School.
Shimabukuro has lived in Wahiawā for 26 years. He and his wife, Lori, a pastor at New Hope Central Oʻahu, are respected figures and mentors in the community. The Shimabukuros started the Wahiawā Athletic Club in 1999 to run the neighborhood’s Police Activities League. Guy coached youth in flag football, basketball, and volleyball, while Lori coached cheerleading. The club accepted youth from Wahiawā and surrounding communities, such as Pearl City, Mililani, and Waialua.
Guy Shimabukuro says these activities have a vital impact on children and their families.
“A lot of times, our kids have single parents, or spend a lot of time with their grandparents or aunts and uncles, and it’s hard because no one can bring them to practice or games. So we try to do as much as we can to help them,” Shimabukuro explained. “When we sign up the kids, sometimes they can’t afford the $5 registration fee, or they bring all loose change because they have to pay for it on their own.” Shimabukuro noted no child was turned away for their inability to pay the fee.
“Usually at the end of the season, we do some sort of get-together, and we try to encourage the parents to build relationships with other families and kids, because they will all eventually go to school together,” Shimabukuro said. “We’ve developed many relationships with families in Wahiawā. Now some of the parents who were playing with us have kids who want to play with us!”
Shimabukuro says the priority is always on practice, not competition.
“Sometimes the kids aren’t doing well in school and the parents might want to pull them out (of the club), so we sit down with them and tell them sports is more than just participation. They learn a lot from playing sports. So I’ll talk to the kids about what’s happening at home, and we work with them to allow them to continue to play,” Shimabukuro explained. “Practice is important, because we want them to still work hard and be a part of the team, even if they are not allowed to play in a game, because we want them to succeed.”
At ʻIliahi, Shimabukuro also coaches students after school in basketball, volleyball, cross country, and track. Shimabukuro spends several months coaching his students in a specific sport after school before the group meets other complex-area elementary schools for a day of clinics and friendly competition. Then the cycle repeats for a different sport.
On average, Shimabukuro coaches anywhere from 100 to 250 children per season, three seasons a year. On a typical day, he goes to work at 6 a.m., stays after school to coach, then works with the athletic club until 6 or even 9 p.m. if a game is scheduled after practice.
Shimabukuro says his faith keeps him going. “God gives me the strength and time to do this work. When I look back at all the things we do on a daily basis, I don’t understand how we get through a whole day without getting exhausted and giving up,” he said. “This is all God’s plan, and this is what we do in the community because He has us in this community doing this work.”
As part of his many volunteer responsibilities for New Hope Central Oʻahu, Shimabukuro coordinates church events and activities for families and youth. He arranges everything from basketball games and cooking contests to holiday celebrations to provide youth with memorable experiences they may not otherwise enjoy and offer guidance and mentorship as they grow up, he said.
Shimabukuro was nominated by Denise Low-Liu, a first grade teacher at ʻIliahi Elementary. “I am fairly new to the campus, however I quickly noticed Mr. Guy on campus early in the morning, and he would still be here after school hours,” she wrote. “He is not only our cafeteria manager, he helps the school out in so many ways. I would see him headed to the play court to coach the kids prior to the pandemic.
“He is so generous. His family donated the materials and made plexiglass desk shields for the entire ʻIliahi staff to keep us and the students safe during this pandemic,” Low-Liu added. “My heart knew he did great things, but as I learned more about him, I was even more impressed with his kindness and compassion for others. He helps generations of families in the Wahiawā community through a variety of programs and is very well deserving of this award.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, when all sports were put on hold, the Shimabukuros regularly checked on players and their families to ensure their wellbeing. While the future of the PAL remains unknown, Shimabukuro is looking to work with school administrators to expand ʻIliahi’s after-school program from one day to an entire season when it is safe.
The HSTA is proud to recognize Guy Shimabukuro as the recipient of the 2021 Friend of Youth Award.