Who We Are: Kamaile Hiapo
"I would describe my pride as love and aloha. I love my culture and my people. We call everyone our ohana, our family. I love that culture of family, love, and unity." – Kamaile Hiapo
Hometown: Gilbert, Ariz.
For Kamaile Hiapo, being a Wildcat has always been her dream. When she arrived on campus in 2019, she knew this was where she belonged, as a student and as an athlete.
"I was always meant for this," said Hiapo. "I feel like I found my place here at Arizona and it feels like home to me. I feel like I've been welcomed and blessed with a lot of opportunities in volleyball. I was able to play right off the bat my freshman year and now I'm in a leadership position. I feel like this is where I'm meant to be."
Hiapo's success as a libero came fast, setting the Arizona freshman record for digs in a season (378) and was the first freshman starting libero in program history. Hiapo said "I never expected to start, I thought I would have to work my way up. Since I was starting, I really wanted to perform well and do my best and the records just kind of came with that. My goal is always to be the best I can be."
While Hiapo cemented herself as the Wildcats' main libero, she has turned her focus to something bigger than sports: inclusion.
Hiapo, a Pacific Islander, recognizes the incredible talent that comes from the Islands and wants to pave the way for other Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) athletes.
"One of my mom's goals in life was to make it big and she did that," she said. "I just want to keep bringing recognition to the islands and let others have the same opportunity that my mom and I had. There's a lot of talent there and all we need is to get noticed and be given the chance. I was given an amazing chance to come here and I'm proud to represent my culture."
This past April and May, Arizona Athletics' Inclusion Excellence Council celebrated APIDA Heritage Month. The goal of APIDA Heritage Month is to share stories of our student-athletes who are Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans.
The APIDA culture has always been and will always be a big part of our program and we are proud to celebrate it all month long!
— Arizona Volleyball (@ArizonaVBall) April 12, 2021
"There was a table talk with Arizona Athletics staff and APIDA athletes," said Hiapo. "They asked us about how we feel, how we're doing, and what's going on in our lives so that the staff members could be educated and to raise awareness about the topic and our culture. I felt very included and heard by the staff and fellow athletes."
For Hiapo and other student-athletes, the table talk was a way for them to connect and share their similarities and differences. Hiapo remembers listening to swimming's Sam Iida talk about his culture and how proud he was to be a member of the APIDA community. Hiapo said "having our names out there is how we show our pride."
Hiapo looked at the pride that Sam Iida, softball's Dejah Mulipola, football's Donovan Laie, and herself share and is proud to represent APIDA athletes and their culture. As a Pacific Islander, Hiapo describes her pride as "love and aloha. I love my culture and my people. We call everyone our ohana, our family. I love that culture of family, love, and unity."
From the moment Hiapo became an Arizona Wildcat, she has always felt at home in Arizona Athletics. "I feel very noticed and included. I've never felt excluded here, and I like that people take an interest in my experiences."
For Hiapo, having a core value of inclusion -- harnessing the power of diversity -- as part of the Arizona Strategic Plan is important to her because "it makes us feel united despite our differences." Athletes at Arizona come from all different backgrounds, but they use those differences to unite and come together as Wildcats.
Hiapo wants to see others recognize their differences and use that knowledge to learn and become better people. Her culture of family, love, and unity is exactly what she hopes to see in the world someday and knows that she can be part of that change.
"One thing we emphasized last year was 'Together We Bear Down,'" said Hiapo. "Everybody experiences different things, but it helps us come together. I know that I can learn from other people, and it can make me a better person. We can use our differences to come together and unite as one."