The Words of the Pisano Family

Manae Pisano: Faith, Volunteering Abroad Help Build Character

Howard Buck
June 10, 2007
Columbian Staff Writer

Manae Pisano often relaxes at home by playing classical electric guitar. She taught herself to play in about two years.

Success at school didn't come early for Manae Pisano, first child of an Italian father and Japanese mother, neither fluent in English.

Speaking broken English at home and pulled from class for extra tutoring, she eventually dove deep into a private cocoon of reading. Hours alone with favorite novels raised her language skills sharply as she finished middle school.

When Manae emerged in high school, her view of the world and her place in it would dramatically shift.

It was time to assert herself, to push past obstacles, she decided. At Heritage High School, she found teachers who inspired her and demanded excellence, and she thrived. She took Advanced Placement courses, served as the wrestling team manager and found part-time work.

She also would fully embrace her family's faith. Members of the Unification Church, her parents had been married by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in a mass ceremony. They, Manae and her four younger sisters remain devout.

Manae views her religion as stepping out of one's self to serve others, bringing purpose to life. A watershed came when she helped fix battered Dominican Republic schools. Travel and community service are her new focus, pushing back for one year plans to study medicine in college.

"I wanted to develop my character, who I am, my faith, who I want to be," she says. After a summer of service in South Korea, she'll join a youth leadership and stewardship program, the Seattle-based NexGen Academy, for work in Africa and Asia.

Friends and classmates who know her heart don't question her faith, Manae says. "I'm very bold about my beliefs. I'm not going to stand down."

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