Essay/video contest winners with veterans Yoshio Nakamura and Toke Yoshihashi at Evening of Aloha on Sept. 19 at the Bonaventure Hotel.
Essay/video contest winners with veterans Yoshio Nakamura and Toke Yoshihashi at Evening of Aloha on Sept. 19 at the Bonaventure Hotel.

Go For Broke National Education Center announced the winners of its 2015 High School and College Student Essay and Video Contest at its annual Evening of Aloha gala last Saturday.

Entrants represented 55 high schools and 20 colleges and universities. A total of $6,500 in prize money was awarded.

GFBNEC also announced that Pacific Global Investment Management Company is once again the presenting sponsor of the contest. Their generous contribution is made in memory of long-time community philanthropists and business leaders Manabi Hirasaki (522nd Field Artillery Battalion, C Battery) and Sig Kagawa.

The contest has also been made possible by two supporting sponsors: Ken and June Shimabukuro, and an anonymous donor in memory of Mas Takahashi (100th Infantry Battalion, C Company).

“The purpose of our essay and video contest is to encourage high school and college students to learn about the Nisei soldier story – which is truly an American story of patriotism, heroism, humility, and courage,” said GFBNEC President Don Nose. “In so doing, we hope they will have a greater appreciation of their civil rights, realize the sacrifices that were made for those rights, and be positive forces helping to safeguard these rights which are the cornerstone of our great nation …

“The 30 winning entries … share compelling aspects of the Nisei veteran story in very personal and profound ways. Congratulations to the many students who won and who shared their stories. Their essays and videos speak passionately about their admiration for the Nisei soldiers who made great sacrifices so those who followed would have a better life.

“Our contest is growing larger and larger by the year. This is the third annual contest – and the first time that we’ve accepted videos in addition to essays. We had a record 247 entrants this year, from 16 states and the District of Columbia. We truly are making an impact nationally.”

“Even more impressive than the essays and videos are the students themselves,” said Chris Brusatte of GFBNEC. “As the main contact person with the student entrants, I have found myself speaking to 250 passionate, intelligent, and caring young adults. They all have a deep appreciation for the past and big dreams for the future. Our country – and our world – is in good hands as we pass the torch to this new generation …

“I have to thank the veterans themselves. All of you are the inspiration. You are the inspiration to these students, you are the inspiration to our staff, you are my personal inspiration, and you continue to be an inspiration to Americans everywhere. Thank you so much for your service. As one student so eloquently stated, all generations must ‘remember the sacrifices and contributions that you made so that all Americans may live as equals in peace and freedom today.’”

Serving as judges were educators Nancy Sagawa, Mary Jane Fujimura, Ikuko Kiriyama, Naomi Jue and Barbara Lai, and community volunteer Audrey Ishimoto.

The winners are as follows:

First Prize, Essay, College/University

Michelle Grochocinski, University of Chicago

First Prize, Essay, High School

Lauren Irie, West Torrance High School, Torrance

First Prize, Video, College/University

Mark Frederick, Penn State University at Altoona

First Prize, Video, High School

Sydney Dempsey, Maui High School, Kahului, Hawaii

Second Prize, Essay, College/University

Kevin Koyama, Northeastern University, Boston

Second Prize, Essay, High School

Nicole Nishizawa, Punahou School, Honolulu

Second Prize, Video, College/University

Christian Saiki, Humboldt State University, Arcata, Calif.

Second Prize, Video, High School

Kyla Kikkawa Flintridge Preparatory School, La Cañada Flintridge

Third Prize Winners, Essay

Kainalu Saiki Kamehameha Schools Kapalama, Honolulu

Taylor Riedley, Simi Valley High School, Simi Valley

Ashley Ishigo, University of Southern California

Jordan Lee, Mid-Pacific Institute, Honolulu

Dante Hirata-Epstein, Iolani School, Honolulu

Yu Rankin, University of Southern California

Remaining Top 30 Finalists

Allysha Yasuda, University of Idaho, Moscow

Alyna Kim, West Torrance High School

Brandon Irie, West Torrance High School

Brandon Ishikata, San Diego State University

Caitlin Chen, Irvington High School, Fremont, Calif.

Cassidy Minae Jung, Flintridge Preparatory School, La Cañada Flintridge

Clare Yejin Lee, Oxford Academy, Cypress

Cody Yamada, University of Nevada at Reno

Daisy Matias, Alhambra High School, Alhambra

Julia Davidson, Palos Verdes High School, Palos Verdes Estates

Kaitlyn Allen-O’Gara, Oxford Academy, Cypress

Kristen Hayashi, University of California at Riverside

Samantha Zee, Waiakea High School, Hilo, Hawaii

Sasha Cox, Kamehameha Schools Kapalama, Honolulu

Teddy Powers, Canyon High School, Anaheim

Tony Chiang, Oxford Academy, Cypress

The winning essays will be published in The Rafu Shimpo.

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