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Sixth-grader wins Molokai’s annual peace poetry contest

Sixth-grade student Kobey Nishihira-Asuncion receives recognition for his grand prize award-winning poem in the 20th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Awards ceremony May 28 at the Molokai Public Library. Awarding him are Melinda Gohn (from left), contest director; Joyce Haase, Kaunakakai Elementary School teacher; and Rosie Davis, representing state Rep. Lynn DeCoite. -- International Peace Poem Project photo

Sixth-grade student Kobey Nishihira-Asuncion from Kaunakakai Elementary School was awarded the grand prize in the 20th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Awards.

The ceremony took place in the Molokai Public Library on May 28 before a crowd of more than 60 people.

“We are delighted to receive work of this caliber from this young Molokai poet,” said Melinda Gohn, director of the International Peace Poem Project, the nongovernmental organization sponsoring the competition.

Rosie David, representing state Rep. Lynn DeCoite, congratulated Nishihira-Asuncion in a crowded room celebrating 18 student winners from three Molokai schools.

The winning students were honored for writing peace poems in the countywide competition organized by the International Peace Poem Project, a group of volunteers that includes teachers and artists.

Four Kualapuu Elementary students won Hawaiian Language Awards and received special recognition certificates from Gov. David Ige. Greta Martinez was awarded the Molokai Dr. King Peace Poem Teacher of the Year and recognized for teaching Hawaiian poetry.

Additionally, four students were recognized for poetic excellence, receiving “Golden Circle” certificates from Ige.

The annual competition is to honor King, the civil rights leader who promoted nonviolent means to achieve social change.

Gohn said Nishihira-Asuncion’s winning poem, “My Home,” unites themes of home and nature using imagery and metaphor to create a vision unique to islanders. Nishihira-Asuncion’s poem begins, “My home is a majestic diamond/My home is a humble whale/ . . .”

Nishihira-Asuncion continues, “My home is a quiet snail/My home is as beautiful as a firework show . . .”

Nishihira-Asuncion’s poem concludes, “My home is majestic, humble, quiet and is beautiful/and brings me great peace.”

“Kobey has written a free verse poem exemplifying the island connection of family and nature. We are delighted that tonight Molokai residents heard the memorable peace poetry produced by their young people,” said Gohn, project director.

Nishihira-Asuncion was selected from a field of more than 210 Molokai entries. Nishihira-Asuncion received an aluminum canvas photo furnished by Maui artist Chad Paranto.

All 18 winners received a Certificate of Achievement from Mayor Michael Victorino and DeCoite and a King commemorative prize poster furnished by the International Peace Poem Project.

The International Peace Poem Project has sponsored King poetry competitions in the four counties of the state for the past 19 years.

Project organizers participated in Millennium Peace Day at the United Nations in New York in 2000.

More information about the International Peace Poem Project may be obtained by accessing the project’s website at peacepoem.org.