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Lahaina student wins opportunity to travel to Africa to see lions

By Staff | Oct 6, 2016

Po Kaikilani Mari Panis-Colorado, a fourth grade student in the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program at Princess Nahi‘ena‘ena Elementary School, was recently named a winner in the Global One United Roar–Worldwide Youth Talent Challenge. She will receive an all-expense paid trip to Timbavati, South Africa, to meet the lions in person. 

LAHAINA – “Until the lion learns to speak, the story will be told from the hunter’s perspective” African Proverb.

On Aug. 21, the White Lion Protection Trust announced its Global One United RoarWorldwide Youth Talent Challenge, designed for youth to make a difference.

The call challenged competitors to become the voice of the lion, through song, poetry, speech, dance or art.

Po Kaikilani Mari Panis-Colorado, a fourth grade student in the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program at Princess Nahi’ena’ena Elementary School, submitted a short video featuring a Hawaiian chant, “an honoring for the lions,” the trust posted on its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/whitelionprotectiontrust/).

On Sept. 24, Po learned she is one of the top six winners, realizing the trip of her dreams, an all-expense paid trip to Timbavati, South Africa, to meet the lions in person.

According to mom Chyna Colorado (Lahainaluna High School Class of 1998), “When she was like three or four years old, she got a jar and started collecting money, because she said she was going to Africa one day.”

“When I found out about this, I actually screamed,” Po told the Lahaina News.

“I am super proud,” the ten-year-old exclaimed.

Dad Kekoa (Mason) Panis (Lahainaluna Class of 1999) added with swelling pride in his voice, “When it comes to Po, it’s not a surprise ’cause she’s amazing, and she’s full of surprises that I’ve never seen before. She has overwhelming love and compassion.”

Her godmother, Starla Cosme (Lahainaluna Class of 1998), was ecstatic about the contest results: “She is a brave young girl with a deep passion and love for all animals and creatures from mauka to makai.”

The White Lion Team from the White Lion Protection Trust answered questions the Lahaina News had about the contest.

From an international group of entrants, slightly less than 100 shared their talents.

Celebrity judges were Sheryl Leach, Hollywood director and creator of “Barney;” Jerome Flynn, Bronn

in “Game of Thrones;” Nthabiseng Tsoamotse, Miss Earth South Africa ambassador and co-CEO of Youth Changemakers Parliament; and Linda Tucker, Keeper of the White Lions, author, conservationist and creator of #OneUnitedRoar.

There were six official winners and 24 runner-ups.

The list of prizes Po won is impressive: a trip to the heart of white lion territories in their natural bushveld pridelands; excursion to the famous Kruger National Park in Johannesburg, South Africa; one day LionHearted Leadership talent training with theatre expert; one day cultural outing to meet local StarLion Ambassadors; and visit to Johannesburg Zoo to honor the captive animals held in cages.

Chyna attributed her daughter’s success from the values Po has learned from kumu in the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program.

“The program is holistic, and their education highlights the relationship with nature, and that intensified her love for the environment that was already natural for her. They support that, and they promote that in their kids. It’s part of their values and their learning; and, because of what she learns and because of the culture and the language, she can stand very strong in that; and I feel that strength in her showed in the video,” she said.

Information about the contest is posted on the Internet at whitelions.org/2016/09/09/oneunitedroar-talent-challenge/.

According to statistics listed on the trust website, “lions will be extinct in the wild in our lifetimes. Only through uniting our hearts with nature can we achieve a genuine policy shift. This talent-scouting initiative will bring support for lions from all corners of the earth through the voices of the future – the youth generation.”

Cosme said, looking into the future: “This is a great opportunity and learning experience for Po.

“Not only do I believe Po will ensure her generation will be able to enjoy and know the rare and exotic animals of this world, but I think she will play a vital role in protecting them for generations to come.”

Po remains humble and incredulous. “I can’t believe that it took this much work just to do one little video, and everything can change,” she said.