A doctoral student from the University of Hawaii Manoa is the top winner in our latest Emerging Writers Contest.

Sterling Higa’s commentary on how homelessness is particularly affecting senior citizens was the near unanimous choice of our six judges. His winning entry is published here.

This year’s contest received about 50 entries from a diverse group of writers, including a couple of poets.

Sterling Higa won first place in our Emerging Writers Contest. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Higa, who has written several Community Voices that have appeared in Civil Beat, grew up in Nuuanu and graduated from Roosevelt High School. He has a master’s degree in education from Harvard University and is working on his Ph.D. in education at UH. Meanwhile, he works full-time as a debate coach and lecturer in the communications department at Hawaii Pacific University.

Higa says he wanted to write about how homelessness is tied to aging because he sees the problem more and more. He lives downtown and gets around by bus, bike or on foot so “I have more time to take in what is around me.”

Homelessness “is really a worrying trend for me,” he says.

We’re delighted to present Higa with a check for $500, which he says he will likely use to take his mom to dinner. Even better.

Emerging Writers winner Tani Loo portrait.
Tani Loo is our second-place winner. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Our second-place winner is Tani Loo. She is also a graduate student at UH Manoa, in the creative writing program.

Loo’s piece, which we’ll publish Tuesday, explores the issue of colonialism through the lens of her Chinese immigrant family and her grandparents’ journey to Hawaii.

She says she has always loved writing, ever since a “really great English teacher encouraged me to start writing short stories.”

Loo gets a check for $300 for her entry.

Makaha’s William Hambaro and his story about finding his way back to Hawaii after living much of his life on the mainland is our third-place winner. He receives a check for $200 and his piece is set to be published Wednesday.

Hambaro, who graduated from the University of Hawaii with a degree in journalism in 1974, spent 25 years as a California state park ranger. His story about moving back to his old neighborhood and the changes in the community, not to mention his own views, belies the adage “You can’t go home again.”

Emerging Writers winner William Hambaro.
William Hambaro of Makaha is the third-place winner. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

An avid Civil Beat reader, he says he decided to enter the contest on a lark. “I said, ‘Hey, I got some stuff here'” and sat down and wrote it up.

Honorable mentions and checks for $50 go to Chris Kobayashi, Perry Arrasmith and Lauren Takao. You can read their entries on Thursday and Friday.

Next week we’ll begin publishing many of the other entries in Our Community Voices section.

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