If you know Monique Fuiava, or for most just ‘Mo’, you know a few things right off the bat: she’s loud, she could care less what you think, and she’s got a heart of gold. But that’s not why this hard-hitting first baseman on the softball team is our Hero of the Month for March; she’s been selected for that honor because of her continued dedication to the youth of Eugene.
She’s been a regular (along with many women of the Lacrosse team) at ‘O Heroes Wednesdays’ at the Emerald Valley Boys & Girls Club in the past weeks, dedicating hours out of an already busy practice and travel schedule to spend time with the kids there. She’s also participated twice in the ‘Are you Smarter than a 4th Grader?’ program, where student-athletes compete against local 4th graders in a game of trivia.
“Any chance the kids have to compete with us is uplifting for them” Mo said in a recent interview. And when a student gets a question right against a Duck, “It’s a definite confidence booster… I know if I was a kid and I beat a college student I’d be thinking, ‘hey school is actually working for me!’”
Mo says that working with kids became more important to her when she realized the positive influence that she (and all student-athletes) can have on them. For Mo it’s about being more than just an athlete, or just a student; it’s about being a source of inspiration, a role she has humbly accepted. “All they want is an hour or two, and an athlete and a smile… and that has an impact” she said.
The importance of family has something to do with it too, Mo thinks. Being Samoan, she says it’s natural for her to pull in other Polynesians and create a sort-of home away from home feeling. She sites friends and fellow athletes Isaac Ava, Ricky Heimuli and Kaylan Howard as being just like her little brothers and sister. “I honestly don’t know what I would do without them” she said. Mo has been the one to encourage those friends to also get involved and be a source of inspiration for the local youth. “In the future, they can bring in the younger people, and that way it becomes a cycle and never ends” she noted.
Now as her time as a college student winds down (she’s a senior), she says she’s becoming more aware of how good she’s had it here at Oregon. Her advice to the younger students? “Get involved from day one,” she says. “There are people out there who need you more than you need them, if that makes any sense” she says with a laugh, and then adds, “if I can impact a 6 yr. old, for example, to have higher aspirations for their self in the future, then I feel that I’ve really accomplished something. Maybe more than in my academics or sport even because to positively influence someone really speaks volumes.”
Mo is right, it does speak volumes, and that’s a big part of the reason why we’re so proud to have her as a part of the O Heroes team and the Oregon family. Well done Mo!