Olena Rondeau, a 4th-grade student from Roots School of Maui, is the grand prize winner for Maui County in the 19th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Contest. Approximately 260 people attended the awards ceremony April 20 at the Mayor Hannibal Tavares Community Center in Pukalani. President of African Americans On Maui Association Gwyn Gorg congratulated Rondeau and all the contest winners and spoke of the importance of a peaceful Maui community.
Rondeau received a Maui County mayoral certificate recognizing her achievement. Award dignitaries Melinda Gohn and Lisa Chinn presented Rondeau with the Maui grand prize, a canvas painting donated by Maui artist Davo, and a certificate from Gov. David Ige. Rondeau’s poem was selected from a field of more than 500 Maui County student entries.
Gohn, the event organizer, said Rondeau’s winning peace poem, “I Am Running,” uses startling imagery to describe the impact of a majestic comet soaring past a Hawaiian mountaintop.
Rondeau begins, “I am running through a gardenia scented twilight/beneath a raspberry, dark blue and purple sky I am running. . . . Above me, a canopy of stars/Millions of tiny pinpoints of light/Shining in the night. . . . Suddenly a meteor streaks across the sky/Red-yellow flames light up the night.” Rondeau concludes: “The falling star reminds me/that the world is full of magic.”
“Rondeau’s poem uses immediacy with unusually perceptive images and metaphors to create an experiential poem uniquely reflecting Hawaii and the innocence of a planet at peace. We are delighted to receive work of this caliber from Maui County,” said Gohn, coordinator of the International Peace Poem Project, the nongovernmental organization sponsoring the competition.
In addition to Rondeau, more than 70 student winners were awarded, including four students who came from Molokai.
Gov. Ige provided certificates for top winners and for the “Teacher of the Year,” Laura Brabant from Haiku Elementary School. Maui performer Bryant Neal portrayed Dr. King, performing an excerpt of “I Have a Dream” speech.
All winners received a certificate from Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa and a prize poster commemorating Dr. King, donated by the International Peace Poem Project.
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