On May 15, twenty-five Hawaiʻi middle school students were recognized for their poems and short stories selected as top winners in the annual “My Hawai‘i” environmental writing contest for students in grades 6, 7 and 8, sponsored by the Pacific Writers’ Connection (PWC), the Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance and multiple state and federal environmental agencies .

Their entries were selected from more than 350 submissions from across the state, and are published in an anthology that will be distributed to schools and libraries on all islands. The imaginative visions of middle school students reveal their insights on Hawaiʻi’s environment today and their dreams for tomorrow.

The students’ writing represents personal reflections on the environment, cultural values, kuleana, stewardship, and place-based writing which contributes to youth literature that is unique to Hawai‘i.

The My Hawai‘i Story Contest provides an educational approach that develops interdisciplinary thinkers. Many of the stories and poems include knowledge from diverse backgrounds and provide good examples of successful collaborations that integrate traditional cultural values and contemporary life in Hawai‘i.

Since the contest began, 225 middle school students have had their stories and poems on the environment published. While academic testing provides a measure of content knowledge, creative writing can capture students’ thoughts, passions, beliefs, and values.

Takiora Ingram, Director of the Pacific Writers’ Connection (PWC) and main driver of the writing contest said, “The future of conservation and environmental leadership lies firmly in the hands of our haumâna, the young people of Hawai‘i. This important initiative encourages, nurtures, cultivates, and promotes future generations to develop a sense of responsibility to care for and protect Hawaiʻi’s environment.”

For the past nine years, and the following state and federal agencies, have joined in co-sponsored the My Hawai‘i Story Contest:

Hawai‘i Coastal Zone Management Program
Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance
Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance Foundation
Hawai‘i Department of Education
Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources –
Division of Forestry and Wildlife
Division of Aquatic Resources
Hawai‘i Environmental Education Alliance
National Park Service –
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
Friends of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Papahânaumokuâkea Marine National Monument


The 2015 “My Hawaiʻi” writing contest winners are:

Trever Casabar, The Way of the Forest, Kamehameha Schools Kapâlama Middle School
Mahealani Deenik, Mauka to Makai, Kamehameha Schools Kapâlama Middle School
Kyler Delacruz, Hapuna, Waiakea Intermediate School
Hiʻilei Dikilato, From the Mountains to the Sea, Kamehameha Schools Kapâlama Middle School
Shaylan Gega, Ekolu and Kahi, Waiakea Intermediate School
Evan Kauwe, Until the Sun Returns, Kamehameha Schools Kapâlama Middle School
Isaiah-Carter Kekaimalu-Bundy-Wong, O‘opu Survival, Ka ʻUmeke Kâʻeo
Maisie Klem, An Ecosystem in a Shell, Punahou School
Nâlani Klopfenstein, Ka Moʻolelo I’a: The Fish Story, Kamehameha Schools Kapâlama Middle School
Keao Liu, Ka‘ûpûlehu, Kamehameha Schools Kapâlama Middle School
Bryan McAniff, Up in the Mountains, Mililani Middle School
E Ala Mai Nakahara, Free the Native Plants, Ka ʻUmeke Kâʻeo
Jolie Numasaki, Another Million Trees, Punahou School
Jason Sadayasu, Working Together is Better Than Working Alone, Punahou School
Kualii Shimasaki, My Home, University Laboratory School
Bryanne Soares, Hawaiʻi, Kamehameha Schools Kapâlama Middle School
Kaimâlie Stensgaard, A Small Piece of Hawaiʻi’s Heart, Kamehameha Schools Kapâlama Middle School
Lana-June Tennant, Ka apo ola (The Circle of Life), St. Andrew’s Priory School
Chris Togiai, Through Their Eyes, Kamehameha Schools Kapâlama Middle School
Noe Watson, The Forgotten Wonders and Life of Hawai‘i, Kamehameha Schools Kapâlama Middle School
Sabrina Weaver, Mr. Wind: A Mânoa Valley Tribute, University Laboratory School
Kate Welch, Mâlama Kanaloa, Hoʻala School
Joshua Wong, E ho ola I ka honu – To save a turtle, Punahou School
Kama Wong, KÂNE, Kamehameha Schools Kapâlama Middle School
Kaylee-Marie Zimmermann, Lôkahi, Kamehameha Schools Maui

Mahalo to all the participating students and teachers! Of special note, one of this year’s winners, Kate Welch from Hoʻala School in Wahiawa, has been a winner 3 years in a row, since she was in sixth grade. Congratulations, Kate!