When Ka’anela Amamalin moved in with older brother Dustin three years ago, it wasn’t for the same reason most teens move out of their parents’ house.
Right before Dustin was to turn 21, he was in a severe car accident. The crash severed his spinal cord, which permanently paralyzed Dustin from the waist down. Ka’anela, who was in the ninth grade at Waianae High School at the time, didn’t have to think twice about moving to the opposite side of Oahu to take care of her ohana.
“Me moving was an easy decision, a no-brainer,” says Ka’anela of relocating to Hawaii Kai. “I don’t look at helping Dustin as responsibility. I look at it like he’s my brother, he needed help.”
Now 17, Ka’anela cooks and cleans their apartment, which includes “dirty things like washing his sheets and scrubbing his toilet.” She also buys the groceries and does most of the cooking, but she says recently they have started preparing meals together.
“The two of us also have a New Year’s resolution together: It is to get active at least once a week,” adds Ka’anela, who is the president of her school’s health club and will be competing next month in the HOSA 2011 State Leadership Conference at the Hawaii Convention Center.
Ka’anela’s story, not to mention her good grades and positive spirit, helped the high school senior win a $500 scholarship at last year’s sixth annual Hawaii Future Physicians Symposium. (She is pictured above accepting the check from symposium sponsor Dr. John Olkowski.)
The aspiring emergency room physician plans to major in pre-med at Chaminade University this fall and eventually hopes to attend A.T. Still University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona.
She also wants to serve as an inspiration for her community.
“I want to be an inspiration for Waianae - I want to graduate from Waianae (High) and then become a doctor so that my community can see that no matter where you’re from, you can do anything you put your mind to,” says the National Honor Society member, who also has an internship with Tripler Army Medical Center.
“I have people who depend on me and I have a lot I’m involved with,” she adds, “so it’s fortunate I enjoy my school!”
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