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Sacred Hearts students win prizes in Eddie Aikau Foundation Essay Contest

By Staff | Oct 27, 2016

Eddie Aikau Foundation Essay Contest winners Brooke Gagnon (left) and Kapua Coon (right) are pictured with their teacher, Mary Anna Grimes.

LAHAINA – There is perhaps no more honorable commitment than to dedicate one’s life to the education of the youthful spirits of our community. As the English and language arts teacher of the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at Sacred Hearts School over the last 17 years, Mary Anna Grimes has carried forth this drive to nurture the inquisitive minds of her students.

It was in this light that Grimes assigned her students an essay project early in the school year with the theme of expressing their feelings regarding legendary Hawaiian waterman Eddie Aikau.

One of the world’s outstanding big wave riders; the first lifeguard at Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu, who saved hundreds of lives there; and a proud Hawaiian who exemplified the renaissance of the culture of his people, Aikau made the ultimate sacrifice to leave the rest of the crew and paddle for help on the ill-fated voyage of the Hokule’a in 1978.

The crew and the voyaging canoe were rescued, but Aikau was never seen again.

The faith and spirit of the Hokule’a and the Hawaiian cultural renaissance thus became solidified in the “Eddie Would Go” movement in the succeeding decades.

The Hokule’a journeyed thousands of miles around the world this year with the mission theme of “Malama Honua” – to nurture in a motherly way our Earth – and Grimes was aboard the sailing canoe for legs of this voyage.

To inspire her students to connect more intimately with the mana (spirit) of Aikau and the Hawaiian cultural renaissance, mentor Grimes asked her students to compose essays on the impact of his life and mana on them, and why it continues to attract worldwide attention.

The compositions were then submitted to the Eddie Aikau Foundation’s annual essay contest.

The contest invites Hawaii public and private school students in grades 7-10 to submit essays for the English or Hawaiian language divisions to compete for cash prizes and a trip to Oahu to be recognized for their accomplishments.

The Sacred Hearts School students in Grimes’ classes submitted essays over the years, and in 2015 Erika Ramos Lagunos was recognized with an Honorable Mention.

This year, the results were even better, as seventh-grader Kapua Coon, the daughter of Wendy and Hopsing Coon, was selected as the third place recipient of the $250 prize and a trip to Oahu to accept the award.

Eighth-grader Brooke Gagnon, the daughter of Sonia and Bo Gagnon, was awarded Honorable Mention recognition and will receive a $100 prize. She will travel to Oahu as well on Oct. 29.

“I am inspired by Eddie Aikau and his passion of his heritage and where he came from,” said Kapua last week on campus at SHS. “It’s sad to think that Eddie nor the crew knew what happened in the end, but that inspired me to write my best essay. I never thought I’d win.”

Brooke added, “I wanted to express my feelings to the judges and to focus on the selfless act of Eddie to try to save other’s lives. I didn’t want to write a boring essay, and I wanted to express myself as best as I could.”

In the end, both Napua and Brooke recognized Grimes as an outstanding mentor.

“She is amazing. She really encourages us to express ourselves and is always supportive of us,” they concurred.