Ka’ū High 10th grader wins 24th annual MLK Jr. Peace Poem Contest for Big Island

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Tenth grade student Vladimir Fedoruk (middle) is the Big Island 2023 winner of the 24th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poem Award. He received the award before an audience of some 125 people at the University of Hawaii-Hilo. Fedoruk is with Mayor Mitch Roth’s representative Timothy Hansen and International Peace Poem coordinator Melinda Gohn. (Gary Kubota/For Big island Now)

A 10th grade student from Ka’ū High School is the grand prize winner in the 24th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poem Contest for the Big Island.

Vladimir V. Fedoruk, whose parents are Ukrainian refugees from 2000, was selected from a field of 250 poetry entries.

During a ceremony at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, Fedoruk received congratulatory certificates from the offices of Gov. Josh Green and Hawaiʻi County Mayor Mitch Roth.


His poem, “Voice of MLK,” focused on how Dr. King’s speeches lifted people’s spirits and left a legacy.

“The voice left us a vision/one that cannot be vanquished/a vision of peace and unity.”

Fedoruk’s father Victor said his family left Ukraine in 2000 because they were Christians in a country that opposed religion.


Statewide Poem Contest coordinator Melinda Gohn described Fedoruk’s work as “a stirring poem, using metered rhyme and metaphor to capture the essence of King’s message.

“The awards ceremony honors Dr. King’s legacy of peace and nonviolence in achieving civil rights and the presentation reminds us of the importance of teaching mutual respect among students as a means of providing a dialogue about the use of nonviolence, ” Gohn said. “King’s legacy is growing.”

As the winner, Fedoruk received art work by Maui artist Chris Curtis entitled “Upper Waipuni Falls Road to Hana” — a photograph on an aluminum canvas frame. The work was donated by Maui Fine Art owner Chad Parento.


More than 50 Big Island student participants, including Fedoruk, received a limited edition poster of the double-hulled sailing canoe Hokule’a as it sailed in the East River with the United Nations building in the background. The photograph of the Hokule’a was taken by Bryson Hoe and provided courtesy of Oiwi TV and the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

A coalition of scores of volunteers, including teachers and artists, participate in organizing events in Hawaiʻi’s four counties to honor Dr. King and promote the message of peace.

Gohn and members of the International Peace Poem Project and the nonprofit Maui Peace Education help to organize the annual event. 

The International Peace Poem Project was invited by the United Nations to participate in Peace Millennium Day in 2000 before UN General Assembly President Harri Holkieri.

For more information about the Dr. King awards and International Peace Poem Project, go to or send an email to [email protected]

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