2nd State Win for 7th Grader in My Hawaii Story Contest

Ho`ala School 7th grader Kate Welch, was selected as a winner in the 2014 My Hawaii Story Contest. 

The 2014 My Hawai‘i creative writing contest is open to all middle school students (6-8th grade) in the state. Students are invited to submit their best story or poem that addresses this year’s theme, “Navigating Change in the Pacific Islands.”  Students needed to write about and promote stewardship of Hawaii’s natural environment for current and future generations. 

Kate’s winning entry entitled “Ka`ena: A Journey Through Time” was chosen as one of the top 25 from more than 400 entries.  What set Kate apart is that she was also was selected as a winner in 2013 for her poem, “From Mauka to Makai: Ka`ala to Ka`ena”.  Kate has been a student at Ho`ala School since Kindergarten.

Ho`ala School is known for its many outreach projects throughout the islands and won a national award in 2010 for its community service program Camp Kokua from the Character Education Partnership in Washington, D.C. 

Here is Kate’s winning entry:


Ka‘ena: A Journey Through Time

By Kate Welch, 7th Grade

Kate Welch

May 2014

I’m walking on the beach as water and sand swirl around my ankles and between my toes. Waves crash upon the rocks and salt spray fills the air around me. Looking towards Ka‘ena Point, I feel relaxed and at peace.

As I continue my trek along the coast, my happiness is shattered when I look up towards the nearby land and notice broken glass, food wrappers, and cigarette butts spread across the dirt roads made by trucks, ATV’s, and dirt bikes. Along the coast fishing line and plastic bags are entwined throughout the cracks and crevices of the uplifted coral reef.

I almost trip over a clump of feathers, mixed with pieces of plastic and bones. I look closer and discover it’s a Laysan Albatross carcass. A mōlī. I’m filled with sorrow and rage. This glorious and beautiful bird died because of our negligence. It ate our plastic trash bobbing on top of the ocean, thinking it was food to be shared with its baby.

Over the ear-splitting sounds from dirt bikes and trucks racing past me, I hear the voice of the earth goddess, Papa, on the wind whipping around the coast. She cries and calls out, “What have you people done to your home? Your ‘āina? Hawai‘i?”

The voice fades away when I start walking towards the point. There is less and less trash. I hike until I reach the protective fence. As I open, then walk through the gates, it feels like I’m going back to the time of our kupuna. Here, there is no trash! Here there are no dirt bikes, ATV’s, or trucks. I see the mōlī, flying freely over the cliffs and the ocean. The koa‘e kea squawk and call out to each other while they search for caves to build their nests.

As I look along the beach I see four ‘Īlioholoikauaua (including one pup) sprawled out across the beach. Watching the monk seals makes me tired and I drift off to sleep in the shade of the naupaka. I dream of many wa‘a off shore. They are paddling back to land with mahimahi and ulua to share with their people. There is no plastic floating in the ocean. On land, there are no roads, only footpaths. The air is filled with the sounds of ancient oli, thanking the gods for providing food for the day.

The clap of thunder in the distance snaps me out of my slumber. The ‘Īlioholoikauaua hear the storm as well and return to their underwater home. I move on and pass by several ‘ua‘u kani burrows. Nobody is home. I remember hearing from my kumu that these birds only return to their burrows in March and lay a single white egg in June. This is the season for mōlī to nest at Ka‘ena. I walk until I find a very cheerful and fluffy mōlī chick waiting for its food.

I see that it’s turning late and the sun is starting to set over the horizon. The koholā are breaching in the distance. I thank the gods for showing me the Ka‘ena of the past, and why we need to take care of our ‘āina. This protected coastal ecosystem shows us what it could look like if we all cared for the rest of this spectacular coastline. As I trek back to the trailhead, I notice the pa‘u o hi‘iaka and ‘ilima reclaiming the land. I pick up as much trash as I can possibly carry out of there. The bags are heavy and the trash smells horrible, but I’m helping to heal the ‘āina. I hear a whispered “Maika‘i” from the gods. I will be back soon, and I will bring friends. Together we will care for this land we call home.


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