Published: Fall 2009 in Parents

Aloha, Westmont

Parents council members Sean and Lori Nakamoto want to see
more students from Hawaii at Westmont
Nakamoto family

Nakamoto Family

“You don’t just go to Westmont — you have to be called,” says Sean Nakamoto. He and his wife, Lori, believe their daughter, Brandi ’12, received that call — and so did they. As members of the Parents Council they happily volunteer to tell high school students in their native Hawaii about their daughter’s experience.

“Westmont has become more than the college our daughter attends,” Lori says. “We’re not alumni, but we feel very much a part of the Westmont community — and Brandi got that sense of community the first time she walked on campus. We never imagined that our involvement in her education would continue through college, and we’re delighted that she welcomes it.”

Westmont wasn’t on Brandi’s radar when she began thinking about college. “It was a God thing,” Lori says. “We looked into Westmont only after we met parents who spoke passionately about the kind education the college provides.”

Brandi is a sociology major who wants to work with young adults in middle school and high school. She has enjoyed reaching out to teenagers as a liberal arts ambassador and mentoring students at César Chávez, a bilingual charter school. An only child, she was excited to move into Clark Halls and live with other women.

“She had sisters for the first time,” Lori says. “Being surrounded by other young Christians, expressing her faith openly and learning how to figure out her own beliefs have all been amazing experiences for her. But balancing social time with studies has been a challenge! She loves Westmont and considers it her second home.”

Brandi was finishing her first semester when the Tea Fire erupted last year. She called her parents as soon as she got to the gym. “We were so far away — we had to depend on our faith and trust in God that evening,” Sean says. The Nakamotos offered to fly Brandi home after the fire, but she decided to stay on the mainland with family and friends while the campus was closed. Sean is grateful she received so much support from Westmont.

“Brandi asked Sean and me if we could start a fund to help two students from Hawaii who lost their rooms, and we raised $4,000 for them,” Lori says. The couple sent gift baskets to the women in Clark displaced by the fire and to firefighters as well.

Lori noted one positive development from the fire. At a college fair in Hawaii the next day, everyone had heard of Westmont! The Nakamotos represent Westmont at college fairs throughout the islands. “A lot of parents are pleased to hear from a parent,” Lori says. “It’s a stretch to send your child out of state and stressful to know you can’t get there quickly if something happens. We speak about God’s work at Westmont — and how he has worked in our lives as well. We want to let everyone know what Westmont can do: produce leaders for the future who will change the world.”

Lori works as a special education consultant for the Head Start program on Oahu. She’s convinced that early intervention for children with special needs makes a big difference in their education. She trains parents and families how to help their children and how to become legal advocates for them. “My work allows me to minister to those in need,” Lori says. “I can’t speak the words of God, but I can help under-served families.”

Sean is part owner of a business that includes restaurants, real estate and a shopping center. Surviving in the current economic climate is challenging, and Sean says being involved in a ministry to men helps him do the right thing in business. “We are called to be light and salt in the world,” he says.“The business really is a ministry. I work with people who aren’t believers, and I pray for them and share the word of God with them. I know God has had a hand in keeping us afloat.”

Building community is important to Sean, and he has organized receptions for Hawaiian families with students at Westmont. “We want to build friendships and get to know each other and support our students — and get the word out to more Hawaiian students about Westmont,” he says. Sean hopes to create an alumni association on the islands, home to more than 300 alumni, parents and friends.

“I’m impressed by the quality and character of like-minded people at Westmont,” Sean says. “Seeing the growth in the lives of students since the fire has been inspiring.”

“The academics are excellent, but the spiritual growth is also amazing,” Lori said. “I don’t think any of us knew how much growth would take place and how much she would be surrounded by God’s word.”

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