Keaau student wins grand prize in poetry contest

  • Courtesy of International Peace Poem Project Jazmeen Mendoza, seventh-grade student in 2020 at Keaau Middle School, is announced as the grand prize winner in the 21st annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poem Awards. At left is teacher Sandra Bonk of Keaau Middle School.

Keaau Middle School student Jazmeen Mendoza was awarded the Hawaii Island grand prize in the 21st annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Awards.

Mendoza’s poem was selected from a field of more than 100 entries.


“We are delighted to receive work of this caliber from this young Hawaii poet,” said awards coordinator Melinda Gohn.

The annual competition, sponsored by the Maui-based International Peace Poem Project, is to honor King, the civil rights leader who promoted nonviolent means to achieve social justice and equality.

Mendoza received an aluminum painting donated by Maui artist Chad Paranto and a grand prize certificate from Gov. David Ige.

Seven Hawaii Island students participated as Golden Circle winners and received certificates from Ige. Some 20 students received certificates as finalists from former Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim and a limited edition, commemorative poster featuring the double-hulled sailing canoe Hokule‘a.

The photograph of the Hokule‘a was donated by photographer Justyn Ah Chong, courtesy of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Oiwi TV.

Hawaii first lady Dawn Ige, Kim and Gohn delivered congratulatory speeches and the winners recited their poems on a video, now available for viewing on Vimeo:

Gohn said Mendoza’s winning peace poem, “My Comfort,” is a unique free verse poem using metaphor to lyrically explore human uncertainties through nature.

The poem begins: “Peace feels like a leaf falling from a tree/it makes me feel at home/It’s my friend when I’m lonely/It’s not having violence in the world.” She continues: “a flower opens to see the world/And feel what it’s like to live in it/…when pain can’t break my smile.” Mendoza concludes: “Peace is like the reflection of the earth and river/it’s my comfort to see what’s next, from my chapter in life/To bring new hope/and to start over if I have to.”


Leilia P. Alu-Leslie, third-grade student in 2020 at Hookena Elementary School, was announced as the contest grand finalist and Ka Umeke Ka‘eo Public Charter School teacher Ainaaloha Ioane was announced as the Dr. King Teacher of the Year.

More information about the International Peace Poem Project can be found on the project’s website at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email