Every year, students from across the state of Hawai’i compete in the “Letter to my Parents” contest. The contest is held by the non-profit organization “Letter To My Parents” that strives to allow adolescents to express what they have to say to their parental figures and improve their family relationships. In Nov., two Mililani High School students placed as finalists in the contest.
“The letter meant everything to me. I’ve been struggling with this issue for the longest time and only now am I really able to get over it,” said finalist Junior Jimwell Delos Reyes. “My letter to my mom was about my dad who passed away two years ago, How his disappearance and inability to reach out caused my mom to struggle. What inspired me to write about my mom was seeing how many sacrifices she made in order for us kids to pursue our dreams. She threw away her dreams to see us (my family) happy and have a better life.”
Along with Reyes, Junior Tiare Tonaki was also a finalist in the contest. These letters were offered as extra credit to AP Language and Composition students. “This letter meant a lot to me because I got to tell my mom how truly thankful I am for her and how I appreciate her,” said Tonaki. “My letter to my mom was basically about the troubles we both suffered and how we overcame it. What inspired this (letter) was (our) relationship because I cherish it so much and want a bond like that to last forever.”
The program awarded nine students in total for its 2019 contest. The contestants were encouraged to write about anything and everything they feel they have to say to their parents. “When I was reading the guidelines for the contest, I thought this would be great to get things off my chest about my family,” said Reyes. “I didn’t really choose one of the specific prompts, I just wrote an overall letter with no focus on any one of the prompts.”
Although the students were trying to express their emotions, the audience was also able to get something out of it as well. The audience was able to sympathise with the speakers. “This contest really benefitted me by inspiring other people that were at the event. Many people came up to me and said my letter was inspiring as they can relate to it,” said Reyes. “I actually never showed my mom the letter. I’m not the type to express my emotions well to someone. I like to keep these emotions and thoughts to myself because I’m uncomfortable sharing them.”
Writing these letters was a challenge for the contestants. A common challenge many of the contestants faced was verbalizing their inner thoughts. “The hardest part of writing this letter was gathering up all my ideas and writing it down without making the letter too long,” said Tonaki. Reyes added, “The hardest part of writing this letter was the part about my dad who passed away two years ago who I was supposed to meet a day before he passed away.”
After reciting their letters at the Hawai’i State Library, the contestants were awarded a $50.00 USD gift certificate to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf cafe as winners in the top 10 in the competition.