VIDEO: Teen Challenges Samoan Stereotypes

Dec 18, 2012

Manu Tuito'elau, 18 years old, was running late to history class at Evergreen High School, just south of Seattle. It wasn't his first time.

Manu's teacher called him out for being late. Manu didn't want to put up with it, so he started to walk out of class. That's when he remembers hearing his teacher say that it was always Manu and his people that scored low in class. He also remembers his teacher asking, "How come you couldn't do as well in my classes as you do on the field?"

Manu is Samoan. He did play football at Evergreen, but he was angry at the teacher for stereotyping him.

"I wanted to jump across the class and sock him in his face," Manu says. "But then it would prove him right in a way. All I could think about was 'I’m not a jock. I’m just a student,' you know?"

Manu took what the teacher said and decided to make it positive.

He started filming a documentary on the stereotypes and struggles that Samoan students face. It's called "Samoan Youth: Ensuring Our Success."

Manu says he hoped the project would open up people's eyes, especially his teacher's, "and let them know what Polynesians do and how we try in our classes."

Producing the documentary changed Manu. It made him feel more successful and motivated.

"I passed the [history] class, I got all my [high school] credits early," he says. "I was set, bro. It was like a lesson you know? Don’t ever let a bump stop you from going on."

Manu is now a freshman at Central Washington University.

Samoan Youth: Ensuring Our Success

This fall, KUOW hosted an after-school workshop for high school students at the South Park Community Center. It was part of our youth radio program, RadioActive. Six youth producers spent eight weeks learning what it means to be a radio journalist. They created powerful stories about subjects close to their hearts. Listen to RadioActive stories here and stay up-to-date with RadioActive on Facebook.