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Hawaiian cousins say aloha to their first year as Sun Devils

Taylor Acosta and KJ Soong will be studying sustainability and bringing some of their island flair to the ASU community

Hawaiian beach scene
August 07, 2020

Aloha. It’s the Hawaiian word for love, affection, peace, compassion and mercy. It’s usually used as a greeting, but to native Hawaiians it has a deeper cultural and spiritual significance. In that context it’s used to describe a force that holds together existence.

This fall, Taylor Acosta and Kenneth “KJ” Soong are bringing some aloha to the desert.

Cousins from the island state, they chose Arizona State University because they don’t have family in the desert. “We will be able to support each other,” Acosta said.

Their plans are to draw on the university’s strengths in entrepenuership and sustainability. Hawaii has issues with sustainability, as Soong pointed out.

“Being from Hawaii, an island in the middle of the ocean, sustainability is key to survival now and for future generations if one day the ships stop coming,” he said. “I chose ASU because I wanted to study sustainability and I knew that ASU was one of the leading universities in the nation. When I visited the Polytechnic campus last fall, I just knew that it was the right fit for me coming from Hawaii.”

KJ Soong

KJ Soong

Both cousins are looking forward to sharing some island culture with the community: a little loco moco, some ukulele and Tahitian dance.

ASU Now talked to the cousins about their hopes and plans.

Question: What drew you to your major?

Acosta: My career goal is to be an entrepreneur. ASU is the leader in innovation and sustainability, and I want to gain more creative knowledge about what it takes to successfully operate my own company incorporating sustainable practices in all that I do.

Q: What are you most excited to experience your first semester?

Soong: I am most excited to meet new people (and) experience dorm life in addition to the freedoms and responsibilities of going to college and functioning on my own.

Acosta: I am looking forward to meeting new people and I am most excited for a little change in my life.

Moving from Hawaii to Arizona and learning to live on my own is a huge change for me. So I need to be able to make that adjustment and get comfortable with a new setting.

Taylor Acosta

Taylor Acosta

Q: What do you like to brag about to friends about ASU?

Acosta: I like to tell my friends all about all the different activities and events that ASU has to offer incoming freshmen. ASU is so welcoming and they have so many fun activities planned for the year even amid the COVID virus.

Soong: I like to brag about how amazing people are because everyone has been so welcoming and willing to help especially since I am coming from out of state.

Q: What talents and skills are you bringing to the ASU community?

Acosta: I love to dance. I've been dancing hula and Tahitian for 13 years. I hope to share my passion for dancing with the ASU community.

Soong: Hawaiian cooking (musubi and loco moco), entertainment (ukulele) are a few of the talents that I have to offer the ASU community. Hawaii is a unique and diverse place and I hope to share some of our culture with the ASU community.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish during your college years?

Acosta: Earn my bachelor’s degree in sustainability. I am a first-generation student and I honestly hope to make the most during my college years. I want to have fun along with getting to know what I am truly passionate about. I hope to make unforgettable memories in and out of the classroom.

Soong: Accomplishments … successful completion of a concurrent degree. Bachelor of Arts in sustainability and a Bachelor of Science in supply chain management. I also have the opportunity to earn a certificate in cross-sector leadership. Networking is going to be key and making time to have some fun!

Q: What's one interesting fact about yourself that only your friends know?

Acosta: An interesting fact about me is I like to sew. My grandma taught me how to sew when I was younger. I've recently learned to sew face masks during this pandemic for my family and friends.

Soong: An interesting fact about me is that I can play the ukulele, guitar, and bass guitar.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem in the world, what would you choose?

Acosta: The homelessness problem in Hawaii is becoming more urgent every year. Living on an island, there really aren’t too many places for people to go and it has already become an issue in my neighborhood. This issue desperately needs attention.

Soong: If I had $40 million I would want to be a part of the solution to solve ocean pollution. I really enjoy surfing and ocean sea life and it’s really sad when I’m out there and I see is so much opala (trash).

Top photo: Courtesy of Bettina Nørgaard from Pixabay.

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