Senator Michelle Kidani and Dean Nathan Murata

The Department of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Science (KRS) in the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa College of Education (COE) has been making headlines for its “Friday Night Lights” (FNL) program. Most recently, Senator Michelle Kidani recognized COE Dean Nathan Murata on July 25, 2018 with a plaque and proclamation for his work on FNL.

In its third year, with generous support from MATSON Foundation Chairman Gary Nakamatsu, Muraoka Insurance Group, and Sugarland Farms, FNL provides interscholastic athletic participation opportunities for students with disabilities and those who are at-risk. Inspired by the 2004 film Friday Night Lights, about a town that lived for football games on Friday nights, the KRS program aims to foster a similar atmosphere on the basketball court where team spirit, team pride, and team work eclipse the focus on winning.

“When I found out about the work that Dean Nathan Murata has been doing to set up this basketball tournament, I was so blown away,” Kidani said. “For someone who is as busy as he is to still find the time to support the special needs community in this way is nothing short of remarkable. This recognition is the least that we could do to honor the work he continues to do.”

FNL pairs students with disabilities or those who are at risk with their peers, resulting in numerous benefits for all of the participants on and off the court. The program gives these student athletes, their families, and the community the opportunity to be a part something previously reserved for only high performing athletes.

“This program was established to create equal opportunity and access to afterschool programs, improve quality of life through continued physical activity, and promote school spirit and pride,” Murata explained. “It is our goal to offer more and more students of all abilities and their families the chance to experience the excitement and impact that come with Friday night sporting events.”

On April 20th and 27th, the Honolulu Star Advertiser and Hawaii News Now were present, with KITV doing pregame promotion, to cover two highly competitive basketball games between students from McKinley, Moanalua, Roosevelt, and Kalani High Schools.

“These games have been extremely popular with crowds filling up the gym,” Murata said. “Friday Night Lights will be expanding to include more high schools interested in engaging student athletes who are at risk or have disabilities to represent their schools in an official athletic event.”

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