2021: Hawaiʻi History Day National Award Winning Projects


It has been another breath stealing year, as our History Day 2020-2021 season draws to a close, and we recognize—again—the remarkable resilience of our community, students, teachers, and families; you represent the best parts of Hawaiʻi History Day, and remind us our histories, our stories, define who are today and who we will be tomorrow.

We congratulate and thank every single one of our students and teachers for their hard work, their patience, their compassion, and their imagination in joining us for 2021 Hawaiʻi History Day, which was largely virtual for the second year in a row. The theme this year was Communication in History: The Key to Understanding, and student projects covered a wide ranging array of topics from the Underground Railroad to Patsy Mink to Mary Kawena Pukui to Bon Dance.

Beyond rankings, we recognize all students and projects that represented Hawaiʻi at the national level. Doing so is an enormous achievement, and we are so proud of our students. If you visit our Padlet, you can see all of our National Qualifying projects there.

This has been another difficult year; when many of us have struggled with everything from internet access to stable housing.The act of completing and submitting a project to Hawaiʻi History Day is in and of itself a tremendous accomplishment. We are grateful to see so many people, across generations, who Mālama Our History. With our whole hearts, we offer thanks to everyone!

It is also our honor to recognize Hawaiʻi History Day students and projects that placed top in the nation. One of the perks of facilitating Hawaiʻi History Day is that we get to learn beside these exceptional students as we review their work. See these beautiful projects, made with so much care, below!

First Place Junior Division Performance

Project: The Rhythm of Resilience: Communication through the Bon Dance

Student: Keilani Kajiyama Tinkham
Teacher: Colleen Spring & David Ishii
School: Lāʻie Elementary School

Keilani’s project gives us a history of Bon Dance, including it’s introduction to Japan from India and its use as a cultural rallying point for Japanese Americans. Her performance is as lively and entertaining as it is informative and thoughtful. Keilaniʻs Teacher Colleen Spring shared, “Kei is one of the most motivated, self-directed and enthusiastic students I have had the pleasure to teach. Her natural optimism shines through her impressive work ethic. She views challenges as important learning opportunities and her insight and empathy in regards to historical actors and events shows a maturity well beyond her age.  I’m super proud of Keilani’s amazing accomplishment at National History Day this year.”

See Keilani’s project here


5th Place Senior Division Documentary &
Outstanding NHD Senior Division Hawaiʻi Affiliate Award 

Project: Acquiescence Diplomacy: The Silent Blessing That Brought Down the Iron Curtain

Student: Summer Royal
Teacher: Amy Boehning
School: ʻIolani School

The Cold War shaped the latter half of the 20th century for much of the world. The dissolution of the Iron Curtain defined the political theatre of the last two decades of that same century. Summer’s documentary achieves a bold analysis of the events that led to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, arguably one of the most iconic symbols of the Cold War era. In this fascinating exploration, Summer includes the reading of body language and the importance of what is left unsaid between world leaders as part of her study.

See Summer’s project here


7th Place Senior Division Website &
Special Award Discovery of Exploration in History

Project: The Communication of Louis Pasteur’s Revolutionary Discoveries that Facilitated the Understanding of Germ Theory

Student: Brianne Acoba & Brielle Acoba
Teacher: Jason Duncan & Amy Boehning
School: Mililani High School

We’ve all learned about Louis Pasteur’s work with vaccines in our history classes, but did you know his work made the study of microbiology possible? Brianne’s (middle image) and Brielle’s (left image) website does a beautiful job taking us through Pasteur’s multiple achievements and fostering renewed appreciation for his work and legacy.

See Brianne and Brielle’s project here


8th Place Senior Division Website

Project: Communication during the Suez Crisis: the United Nation’s Use of Diplomacy to Foster Understanding and Peace

Student: Ty Wakahiro
Teacher: Kimberly Lauzon & Amy Boehning
School: Mililani High School

Most of us have probably heard of the Suez Canal. Perhaps fewer of us, particularly those under 50, know about the Suez Crisis of 1956. Ty’s website delves into some of the issues surrounding this conflict, and he does a wonderful job acknowledging the ways so many of our stories are irrevocably tied together. While exploring his website, you will learn about how United Nations Peacekeeping forces were tied to this important event.

See Ty’s project here


Honorable Mention – Documentary &
Outstanding NHD Junior Division Hawaiʻi Affiliate Award

Project: The Power of Propaganda: An Okinawan Tragedy in World War II

Student: Raymi Watanabe
Teacher: Rochelle Tavares
School: Governor Samuel Wilder King Intermediate School

Many stories have been passed down in our homes and classrooms about events during World War II in the Pacific. Raymi’s documentary gives us insight into the horrendous impact of World War II on the island of Okinawa, including interviews with family members, who survived the Battle of Okinawa. Raymi’s focus on propaganda reminds us that the deliberate communicating of misinformation can have tragic and long lasting consequences.

See Raymi’s project here


Honorable Mention – Website

Project: Louis Braille: The Journey of Braille Communication

Student: Caitlin Lau
Teacher: Rochelle Tavares
School: Governor Samuel Wilder King Intermediate School

Reading and writing is often taken for granted by sighted people. Writing has been around for well over two thousand years, but it wasn’t until the early 19th century that a system of writing was developed for people who are blind. Caitlin’s website offers us an overview of this history and the importance of its development. She also includes interviews with Terrence Tom, who is the first blind person to ever pass the Hawaiʻi State Bar Exam.

See Caitlyn’s project here


Documentary Featured at
Smithsonian African American History Museum

Project: Mary Kawena Pukui Communicates Endangered Hawaiian Language and Cultural Practices for Future Understanding and Revival

Student: Mandy Kim-Fu
Teacher: Amy Boehning
School: Mililani High School

Mary Kawena Pukui is the preeminent Hawaiian scholar of the 20th century. Mandy’s documentary is an exemplary introduction to the historical context that shaped Pukui’s life and gives us a beautiful glimpse into the remarkable life of an incredible woman who dedicated her life to documenting and preserving Hawaiian culture and language.

See Mandy’s project here


Exhibit Featured at the National Museum of American History

Project: Lewis Williams: Communicating the Escape to Freedom

Student: Chara Eirene Layugan, Luckey Sanchez, Meljane Callejo
Teacher: Jaimy Valerio
School: King David Kalākaua Middle School

Many of us have heard of the Underground Railroad, which helped thousands of enslaved people reach relative freedom in the United States prior to the abolishing of slavery. It is less often that we have the opportunity to read the words, and bear witness to the testimony, of a person who lived this experience. Chara (middle image) Luckey (left image), and Meljane (right image) give us this experience through their project, which tells of the intricate difficult journey of Lewis Williams through the Underground Railroad. They also share his words, which, written in verse, celebrate the possibility of freedom with a life in Canada.

This project was covered in the news article, Oahu middle schoolers showcase a piece of American history in national competition on Hawaii News Now. Kalākaua Middle School teacher Jamie Velario, is also featured in our Hawaiʻi History Day, Honolulu District Moʻolelo video.

See Chara, Luckey, and Meljane’s project here