Siva and education lead dancers to Tacoma Samoan Arts & Academics Champs

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CHAMPIONS: Le Lumana'i o le Pasifika, with the Championship trophy.

(TACOMA, Wa.) — 'Love and Unity' is the theme for the Samoan Arts & Academics Competition that will bring together students from 41 schools, Saturday, May 5 at the Tacoma Dome in the state of Washington.

Champions of the 2017 competition is team Le Lumana'i o le Pasifika. They clinched the Overall Group Champions title, the Academic Excellence Champions honour and these categories: Court, Ulufale, Mauluulu, Siva Teine, Siva Tama and Sasa.

"Over the years, SAAC has doubled in terms of student participants and with great thanks to their local support team of advisors, instructors and involved parents, we've been able to watch student engagement in school and academic performance improve drastically," said Kiana Fuega, coordinator of the event.

"This year we have five teams composed of students from 41 schools for the 4th Annual Samoan Arts & Academic Competition."

Competing teams are: Laumua led by RJ Maae; Mata'ala led by Taupale R. Lotu; Tupulaga Mo Taeao led by Vali Polini Taamu; Le Lumana'i o le Pasifika led by Mane T. Tuiaana and United Pacific Islander Impact led by Sia Gin Soni Lotulelei.

The event started as a 2015 Senior Project of Mount Rainier High School Scholar-Athletes Jersiah Tafia and Leuea Loto, football players now studying Sports Medicine and Communications in college.

"We have been blessed with the opportunity to witness Samoan cultural elements such as 'aiga, tautua and fa'a'alo'alo become a centered force in each of the teams, making their education less isolating as it often times can be as Pasifika students and non-Pasifika students alike here in Washington state," notes Fuega.

Her family is from Olosega, Manu'a and Leone in Amerika Samoa.

Fuega works in Washington at Pierce College under the Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Strengthening Institution (AANAPISI) federal grant, managing community engagement and outreach opportunity for Asian American and Pasifika communities.

She holds a Bachelor's of Arts degree in Anthropology from the University of Washington, with a focus in applied anthropology for/by indigenous people and decolonization.

Fuega told tautalatala: "Much of the focus of my career in higher education has been in college access with underserved communities through the routes I understand by years of work done with building bridges between our Washington state Pasifika communities and institutions of higher education."

Doors open at 10 a.m., competition starts 1 p.m. at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall at 2727 PD Street, Tacoma, Washington, 98421.