Te'o is a hero and role model to many children in Laie and nearby small towns like Haaula, Kaaawa, and Kahuku along the two-lane highway snaking through Oahu's northeastern coast.
Students at local Haaula often wear Notre Dame jerseys with his number "5'' on them, and Te'o has returned to the area to talk to students about the importance of staying in school, said school administrator Makala Paakaula, 38.
"He always keeps giving back to his community," Paakaula said.
She said Te'o should be lauded for uniting Notre Dame during his senior year when he could have left for the NFL.
"It's amazing how he brought together the whole school to become one ohana, one family, where they all belonged, where they all had a purpose," she said.
Many residents expressed anger toward whoever was behind the entire affair.
"If he got hoaxed, that's not his fault - shame on them," Paakaula said, "because he has a very trusting, open heart."