Each week, Hawaii's teenage reporters and photographers
tell us about their high school.

This week: Roosevelt High School.

Roosevelt water polo coach Susan Nishioka recently demonstrated a "pop shot" to players, from left, Vinh Tran, Robb Oshima and Eddie Arva. Nishioka was instrumental in making women's water polo a recognized competitive sport in Hawaii.

Making a splash

Roosevelt teacher and coach
Susan Nishioka has been a
water sports force for 30 years

School facts and figures

By Aarika Lim
Roosevelt High School

In 30 years the average person has eaten almost 34,000 meals, done 2,750 loads of laundry and spent more than 45,000 hours reading.

In 30 years, people have cruised in and out of relationships, gone though a variety of jobs and have probably dabbled in a multitude of hobbies.


Let's face it, 30 years is a long time, especially to stick with one thing. That's dedication.

It's something Susan Nishioka knows all about. She has been coaching swimming and water polo for the past 30 years. "I was a child prodigy," she jokes. Nishioka, a math instructor and year-round coach at Roosevelt, has been instrumental in making women's water polo a recognized competitive sport in Hawaii.

A photo on the wall at the Nuuanu YMCA is responsible for piquing her interest in swimming. While attending summer fun, Nishioka would gaze at the photo of the swim team. "I wanted to be part of that, so I joined," said Nishioka.

Years later, Nishioka and several other women swimmers at the University of Hawaii watched the men's water polo team play.

"After seeing them play, we said, 'We want to do that, too.' So we decided to start up a team," said Nishioka. It was one of the first female water polo teams in Hawaii.

The UH let them use their name, but they could only play as a club. They enlisted the help of a few UH male team members to coach their club team. Nishioka said, "We went through seven coaches in our first year because we drove them all nuts." Two years after they had assembled their team, a tournament came to Hawaii, and they finally added a women's division.

"She's extremely humble. She won't tell you, but she has a wall full of trophies, ribbons and medals at home," said former student athlete Melissa Sato.

One of the awards was being named an All-American water polo player in 1976. "It was only our third year of competition, and we hosted the Senior Nationals in Hawaii. It was surprising that I would get recognized among all these established players. None of us thought we could compete at that level," said Nishioka.

Nishioka's determination to have women's water polo known is finally a reality. The Oahu Interscholastic Association has officially sanctioned girls' water polo as a letter sport for the first time. "We've tried for years to get it recognized."

Many of Nishioka's former athletes have gone on to play in college and even to coach. "That's what you hope for, that people who have played for you will go out into the community and open up more programs," said Nishioka.

Her years of experience and devotion have benefited her athletes as players and people. Current swimmer, water polo player and senior Jonathan Ching said, "She's really developed me as a swimmer and water polo player. Any success I've had in these sports is because of her."

Nishioka remembers the four F's of coaching that former Roosevelt athletic director Edmund "Ticky" Vasconcellos taught her: "You had to be fair, you had to be firm, you had to be friendly and you had to have fun. I've always tried to keep that in mind."

"She's more than a coach to us; she's also a friend. But she can be very tough and push us," said Sato.

"If she didn't push us, we probably wouldn't push ourselves," said former Roosevelt athlete Emily Oshima.

Her dedication to the sport, the water polo community, her team and her athletes is why her career as a coach has been so successful. Swimming and water polo is a year-round job for Nishioka.

Retirement plans are not in Nishioka's near future. "If it's not fun, then I'll stop, but everyone tells me I'm going to die on the deck."


Roosevelt High School

Founded: 1932

Motto: "Preach not the doctrine of ignoble ease but the doctrine of the strenuous life." -- Theodore Roosevelt

Vision: We believe in the inherent worth of each student and that every student possesses a potential for learning, creativity and personal success.

Mission: To discover and to develop that potential in partnership with the students, the home and the community and to enable students to attain optimal personal, social, physical and economic competencies while pursuing academic excellence.

Address: 1120 Nehoa St., Honolulu 96822

Phone number: 587-4600

Principal: Dennis Hokama

Vice Principals: Mary Diaz and Fred Yoshinaga

Colors: Red and gold

Mascot: Rough Rider

Class mascot, colors:

>> 2003: Sharks, blue and silver
>> 2004: Dragons, black and silver
>> 2005: Tigers, red and silver
>> 2006: Monkeys, blue and white

By the numbers

>> 1,548 students (838 boys, 710 girls)

>> 30 news-writing students

>> 5 new teachers

>> 23 teachers who are alumni

>> 28 years as Hawaii's only English-standard public high school

>> 3 large rocks in the "Ho'okahi" sculpture in front of the school

>> 285 lockers

>> 364 stairs in the main building

>> 75+ rooms renovated in the past year

>> 1 new refrigerated water fountain

>> 4 new security cameras

>> 22 sports offered

>> 7 AP courses offered daily

Roosevelt High School

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