President Bush congratulated Linda Uehara of Mililani yesterday at the White House before presenting her with the President's Volunteer Service Award. CLICK FOR LARGE
President Bush honors volunteer from Mililani
Linda Uehara's good works land her a presidential award
IN A CEREMONY at the White House yesterday, retired Hawaii teacher Linda Uehara received the President's Volunteer Service Award for 40 years of giving -- a tradition of community service she said she learned from her parents and the people of Hawaii.
President Bush gave Uehara a peck on the cheek, a handshake and the award, which was part of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebration in Washington, D.C.
"It was an incredible experience," said Uehara, who lives in Mililani, after the presentation. "He is such a nice man, witty and personable."
Daughter Marcie Herring said her mother gave credit to "all the people who supported her in her life, and all the people in Hawaii, because it was a special experience to grow up in Hawaii."
Herring, who accompanied her mother, said what has always been special about Uehara "is her capacity to give, and she's been doing it for a long time."
Uehara was a teacher at Honowai, Kanoelani and August Ahrens elementary schools during her 33-year career, winning the Leeward District Teacher of the Year Award in 2002.
The state Department of Education's "Learn and Serve America" program, which provides opportunities for youths to make a difference in the community, nominated Uehara for the president's volunteer award.
Herring, a facilitator for the Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii, asked her mother to help out with that organization 10 years ago.
The president's award cited Uehara for her most recent involvement in such first-in-the-nation agencies as the Hawaii Girls Court, Girls Street Smart and Girls Circle, which teach life skills to troubled youths. All are affiliated with the coalition.
Uehara, 60, was also appointed by the governor to serve on the Juvenile Justice State Advisory Council in 2003. She also won an Ola Pono Award in 2006, sponsored by drug-free proponents.
Her volunteer service, however, began more than 40 years ago, mainly as a "team mother" for the softball and soccer teams her two sons and daughter had joined.
Her father, Macario Slores, an immigrant from the Philippines, was her major role model. He worked with youths for more than 35 years and was called "Mister Jackrabbit" because he belonged to the Waipahu Jackrabbits service club, Uehara said.
Her mother, the former Ayano Nishimura of Okinawa, taught her values such as "yuimaru," or "helping spirit," and the "importance of family and extended family," Uehara said. "Now my daughter and her generation are carrying on" the legacy.
Uehara said she and her daughter are an effective counseling team for the drug-free organizations because the girls can see how they are able to bridge the generation gap and work together.
"We share our experiences," she added, by using a nonjudgmental "talk story" method that builds trust.