Maui Waena’s media program was group to beat at Mainland confab

Jacy Hanada (right), Jaycie Iha and Emily Tom work on a video during last month’s Student Television Network convention in Nashville, Tenn. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Suzuki

Maui Waena Intermediate School’s media program has developed a lofty reputation over the years at the Student Television Network convention, the nation’s top middle and high school student video competition.

“I got to STN and one of the high schools was like, ‘Oh my gosh yeah, Maui is going to win anyways,’ “ 8th-grader Jaycie Iha recalled Thursday.

” ‘All of us Mainland schools are planning to come together to defeat you guys.’ I was like, OK.”

Despite the extra pressure and attention, the team of 25 students added eight awards to their school’s collection at last month’s competition in Nashville, Tenn. — including three first-places.

The school’s weekly show, “Falcon Features,” also took home the award for Excellence in Broadcasting.

Logan Tsukiyama

“It was a lot of screaming,” 8th-grader Logan Tsukiyama said. “I lost my voice at the ceremony. For a lot of the first-timers, it probably was the most exciting moment they’ve had in school.”

The first-place medals were for Public Service Announcement, Movie Trailer and Silent Film. Jaycie was part of the PSA team that made a video about music education.

“We bought instruments and we actually used the sounds for transitions,” she said. “Once we hit the triangle all the graphics popped up on the screen. It was very stressful.”

Jaycie, who has been in the program for three years, said it was the first time she felt confident about a video, but began second-guessing herself as the judges read the names of winners.

“I was psyching myself out, but once they said our name for first place I couldn’t help but cry so much,” she said. “Each year we have a great group of students and we all do what we have to do.”

Fellow 8th-grader Renzo Gaoiran felt far less confident about winning for his silent film, which he wrote, acted in and edited. The film followed the theme “I walk the line,” and portrayed a student balancing his free time with homework.

Renzo said that in the video, he and his friend pretend to talk during all the shots, except when the pair is on the phone shown in a split-screen view. Then they only nod their heads without moving their mouths and hang up the phone.

Longtime teacher Jennifer Suzuki said she could not stop laughing.

“It was so funny,” Suzuki said. “We’re watching it and we’re like, ‘Either they’re going to think this is hilarious, or they’re going to think you’re ridonkulous.’ “

Renzo said he didn’t understand why Suzuki and other students were laughing, but then realized his mouth was not moving.

“It made the judge laugh a bit and I think that’s one reason we got first place,” he said. “And also because we didn’t take it literally.”

Kamehameha Schools Maui’s middle school team took second place for its silent film and earned an honorable mention for best music video. Kalama Intermediate School also participated.

Hawaii schools accounted for 30 awards at the event that hosts about 3,000 students annually.

“We have a pretty strong reputation,” Logan Tsukiyama said. “Hawaii in general is a largely respected group over there.”

Suzuki said the awards are a testament to her students’ hard work and independence. She noted that Logan was recently selected to attend the prestigious PBS Student Reporting Labs Summer Academy in June in Washington, D.C.

“She’s such a hard worker,” Suzuki said. “She can sit here in the middle of a whole classroom and edit a video. She’s magical. She’s like a unicorn.”

Logan is Suzuki’s fifth student to participate in the one-week journalism fellowship in as many years.

“That’s really impressive,” Suzuki said. “It’s a credit to how much work they do. As much as I’d like to bribe people, I can’t.”

Logan said she is excited to learn more about storytelling and the different methods reporters use.

“They have real professionals there, so I’m excited to meet them and learn from them,” she said. “Hopefully I can take that and teach it to the other students here.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at