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Students answer the question: ‘What makes Lahaina Strong?’

By Staff | May 14, 2020

Katy Hussey, Lahainaluna High School sophomore, was the winner in the high school level. 

LAHAINA – What makes Lahaina strong?

It’s a force carried in the Kaua’ula winds; it’s the landmark “L” searing the sky on graduation night; it’s Lahainaluna High School, David Malo and Sue’s Boys; it’s Kula Kaiapuni and Punana Leo; it’s a gathering of hundreds along Lahainaluna Road when our students come home from a success on Oahu; it’s Canoe Beach, the standards and colors on regatta day; it’s the indestructible bond between the aina and all of us; and it’s the distribution of thousands of bags of food during the Coronavirus.

The past month, the keiki of West Maui have taken the lead sharing their 100 words or less in the “What Makes Lahaina Strong Keiki Kafe” writing contest, and it’s been a humbling experience.

Working in tandem with amazingly creative volunteer competition coordinator Jen Mather, the Lahaina News was able to recognize our youth and their enduring worth.

Mather, a gifted virtual barista, concocted the Lahaina Strong Keiki Kafe@wearelahaina Facebook page as a guide to lead the way.

Kayla Mabalot Del Castillo, a seventh-grader at Lahaina Intermediate School, was the overall winner.

Her page posts were educational and entertaining. Our kids were given a free demonstration of what makes Lahaina truly wonder-full and an engaging writing topic.

Check it out!

“This contest was a testament to the fortitude of our Lahaina keiki. It was an honor to be able to read the many different and yet similar reasons – they all know they live in an incredible place,” the young mother of two, community leader explained.

Entries were received from students attending elementary, intermediate and high schools.

Mather worked with two West Side judges.

Elaine Gallant is a local author, founding member of Maui Writers Ink and a member of the Women Fiction Writer’s Association.

Jo Ann Carroll, a bookseller for decades, is described by Mather as “an integral part of the Maui book loving community as the manager of Maui Friends of the Library.”

“Elaine Gallant and Jo Ann Carroll were incredible to work with. To have two professionals, with such esteemed backgrounds, read the entries of our up-and-coming writers is something I will always be grateful for.”

Kayla Mabalot Del Castillo, a seventh-grader at Lahaina Intermediate School, was the overall winner. Her submission, “Till the Day We Reunite,” also took the Most Creative prize.

She won $200. The three winners’ entries are featured on this page.

“We chose ‘Till the Day We Reunite’ for its obvious creative structure. We found the conversation a truly clever way to make that connection about the strength of Lahaina friendships,” the judges noted.

First place, $50, in the elementary school level went to Ryder Leone, a third grade student at Maui Preparatory Academy.

Judges chose “Our ohana/Our spirit of Aloha,” not only for its organization but for its message, Gallant said.

Katy Hussey, Lahainaluna High School sophomore, was the winner of a $50 cash prize in the high school level.

“This essay’s message held importance. So congrats to its author,” Gallant advised.

Other “Notable” submissions were received from Alissa Skolnick, Isis Reed, Nuala Ruiz-Rockett, Brianna Kapu Kekona, Rick Vermey and Ayla Kurulgan.

“Together, every submission entertained us while providing a small window into how Lahaina’s students define ‘What makes Lahaina Strong,’ ” the west side author observed.

The “Notables” won gift chocolates from generous contest sponsor Maui Ku’ia Estate Chocolate.

“Congratulations to the winners and all the participants in the writing competition. We hope you will enjoy our Made in Maui Chocolate prizes,” said Vice President and General Manager Krishna Narayan.

“Ku’ia Chocolate is a great community contributor,” Mather described, “and we are exceptionally lucky to have companies in Lahaina that are always willing to help and celebrate our amazing home, even during global pandemics.”

As Kayla concluded in her piece, “What makes Lahaina strong are the connections we make.”

And the Lahaina News agrees with Ryder Leone, who is “thankful to be part of this amazing community.”