Passion and Purpose

Paris Priore-Kim

February 22, 2017

Last week, all of our students K – 12 were treated to time in chapel with Carissa Moore, a graduate of the Punahou Class of 2010, and a three-time WSL Women's World Champion in surfing. I listened in as Carissa captivated her audience of second- and third-graders. Gentle and warm, Carissa delighted everyone by sharing a video clip that showed her as a first-grader talking about surfing for a class project that she did in Mrs. Kimura's class. I wondered, in that moment, if all the children in chapel might be seeing a little of themselves in Carissa, and a little of Carissa in themselves.

When Carissa asked the second- and third-graders, "How many of you have a passion?" every hand in the chapel shot up. (I longed to be able to suspend time in order to hear what every child would name as their passion.) She went on to encourage the children to give one hundred percent, no matter the outcome. With characteristic humility, Carissa shared candidly, "Some days the waves are so big that I don't even want to paddle out. I still have lots of fears and tears. I just have to push through. And when I manage to do that, that’s often when the magic happens."

As if those gems of wisdom weren’t enough from 24-year-old Carissa Moore, she went on to tell our students that more than winning the world contest, the moments of her journey that stick out the most for her are the ones which provided her opportunities to “give back”. She spoke of her involvement with Surfing 4 Peace, a cross-border initiative that aims to bridge cultural and political barriers between Israel and Palestine through surfing. It was evident to our students that Carissa's life is clearly as much about good will as it is about good surfing. She reminded her young audience that even the smallest gesture of goodness can “send a ripple in a thousand directions.”

Two important ideas emerged from that powerful section of Carissa's talk. The first is that the passions that our children hold need to be recognized and acknowledged. In what do our children feel strength, joy and intrinsic motivation? Where do they display a never-give-up attitude naturally? What spurs their curiosity and interest? Carissa’s story urges us to ask these questions and to pay attention when the answers are revealed. The second idea is that fears and setbacks are to be expected and are valuable to growth. The key, of course, is to practice “pushing through” those fears and setbacks, but I submit that the real point lies here: "no matter what the outcome." Focusing on successful processes rather than on successful outcomes is a highly relevant life skill. A successful growth process is one that persists whatever the outcome. Our eyes and encouragement should be trained on the process, knowing that learning derives from sustained series of experiences that include trial and error, understanding one’s mistakes and continual opportunities to improve.

Carissa’s clarity around passion and purpose not only chart her course, but they also remind us of our clear purpose in the lives of our children. That every child sees their capacity to thrive and contribute should be at the core of all we do with them. Carissa certainly provided our students with a window on that vision, and I delight to think about the ripples that her life and example have set in motion.


  • 4/2/2017 5:11:30 PM

    She was in my kindergarten class!

     – Jonathan Yorck



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