By Kayla Anderson
Two twin brothers who grew up in Sparks will be leaving Sparks High School soon to continue their path towards serving our country and doing great things, thanks to the support of their fellow students, family, and faculty.
Vinny Po’oi is graduating in a couple of weeks and is excited for what the future holds for him. He and his identical twin brother Aleki both spent the past four years at Sparks High and while he had a great time there, he’s also looking forward to the next stage in life.
One of Vinny’s biggest accomplishments during his tenure was becoming battalion commander for the JROTC in his senior year, where he became more involved with community events such as volunteering for the Best of The West Rib Cook-Off and the Run for Education. He believes that his time with the JROTC taught him teamwork, leadership, and other lift values that will help him in his future career. His favorite subjects are science, government, and history and hopes to join either the Marines or the Navy after high school or become a wildland firefighter.
When the brothers were younger, they took a few family trips to Tonga (the Polynesian country comprised of 169 islands) where their extended family is; that is how Vinny became exposed to travelling and seeing new places, sparking an interest in aviation.
When asked who his biggest influencers are who contributed to his success at Sparks High, Vinny can’t name just one person. “It’s the whole staff, teachers, and administration who helped me a lot to make me who I am today,” he says. And while he enjoyed attending Sparks High for its diversity and how everyone usually got along, Vinny adds, “I’m more than excited to graduate. I’m ready to go out into the real world.”
The best advice Vinny has ever received? “Fake it ‘till you make it.”
A young gentleman graciously opens the door to the Sparks High main office for me, proving that chivalry is not dead. The person letting me through is Sparks High senior Aleki Po’oi, soon to be a high school graduate.
Like his brother Vinny, Aleki wants to pursue the military and recently joined the Army National Guard.
“My grandpa was in the army during the Vietnam War as a helicopter gunner. ‘Be honorable and humble’ he always said. As kids we always thought the military was pretty cool,” Aleki says.
Since they grew up in Sparks and their mother Sheila has been a physical education teacher at Sparks High for many years, Aleki feels like the high school is his second home.
“I remember when we were little my mom would pull us through the halls in a little red wagon,” he says.
In his tenure at Sparks High, he enjoyed studying math, science, (“It’s crazy how everything works and chemicals come together,” he says) and participating on the wrestling team, believing that the one-on-one nature of competition naturally instilled life skills like how to stay physically fit and overall how to work with others.
However, one of his biggest accomplishments includes being an instrumental player in taking the Railroaders to the playoffs in football last year- the first time in a decade.
At around that time, Sparks High football coach Gregg Shugar walks in and shares what an asset Aleki has been to the Sparks High football team. Coaching Aleki at the freshman and junior varsity levels, Shugar says, “He’s the most complete player I’ve ever coached and one of the hardest working players I’ve ever had. He’s a true leader, an outstanding guy on and off the field.”
He adds that his brother Vinny is a great guy, too, and that it will be tough to meet anyone else at the caliber of the Po’oi brothers, then shares a story about an incident where Aleki showed his true character.
“One time I had all of this cement in the backyard that had to be broken up and removed and so I asked a few of the guys if they could come over and help me. Aleki shows up 15 minutes early on a Saturday morning, ready to start. Two of the guys didn’t even show up at all. It was unbelievable that Aleki did that on a Saturday and spent the whole day helping me with this cement. If (the Po’oi brothers) say they’re going to do something, then it’s going to get done,” Shugar says, impressed that a high school student would dedicate the better part of his Saturday helping out the coach and not even accept payment.
But like Vinny, he’s excited to get out of school and do his own thing. “I’m excited to start my life, take what I learned here and apply it to the future,” he says.
The best advice Aleki has ever received is, “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.”