Hawai'i State News

Kealakehe High School wins grand prize at Pacific & Asian Affairs Council competition

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Kealakehe High School
Kealakehe High School. PC: KHS

The Pacific & Asian Affairs Council (PAAC) hosted the 21st annual Hawai‘i Regional Academic WorldQuest Competition on March 2 at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

Over 140 students in grades nine to 12 from three islands and 15 public, private and charter schools participated. Neighbor island teams attended virtually.

Team captain Lucy Cameron, Andries Ferreira, Anna Payesko and Azalea Thorp from the Big Island’s Kealakehe High School won the grand prize, which includes paid airfare and hotel accommodations to represent Hawaiʻi at the national competition in Washington D.C. in April.


Second place overall went to team captain Isabella Leonardo, Bodhi Mylett, Jayden Tran and Ivan Tse of Kalani High School in Honolulu. Third place overall went to team captain Beatrice Kim-Lee, Celina Chen, Kaia Fujinaka and Abigail Jensen of Waiākea High School on the Big Island. County prizes were also awarded to students from ʻIolani School in Honolulu, Maui High School and a second team from Kealakehe High School.

Students answered questions on the following topics:

  • NATO: Alliance and Collective Defense in a Changing World
  • Demographic Dividends – Population Shift in Africa
  • The Global South
  • Sports and Diplomacy
  • Women’s Contributions to Track II Diplomacy
  • Navigating AI: The Global Workforce

Each category had 10 multiple-choice questions for a total of 60. Team members collaborated to answer each question within one minute. Students were encouraged to review the PAAC-provided study guide and attend virtual coaching sessions with community experts before the event. Many teams studied for months.


PAAC invited prominent community leaders to connect with local youth through the event. Kamaka Dias, a former Peace Corps volunteer and the host of the “Keep it Aloha” podcast, co-emceed the event with Kolby Moser, founder of ARIA Studios and co-founder of ARIA Children’s Fund, a nonprofit that helps to combat child trafficking.

Krystle Corpuz, a PAAC alum and senior manager and natural resource management specialist for RTI’s International Development Group, judged the competition alongside José Barzola, conflict and peace specialist at the Office of the Provost and Affiliate Faculty at the Matsunaga Institute for Peace at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.

Many students said exploring the competition’s topics broadened their worldview. They also said the competition helped strengthen their team-building and reading comprehension skills while connecting with other students from across the state.


“Participating in WorldQuest expanded my understanding of different problems that are current or are arising throughout the world,” one student participant said.

PAAC Study Tours & WorldQuest Competition Director Carol Li said it was inspiring to watch students tackle tough topics, such as AI and the Global South, that many adults aren’t even aware of.

“Hawaiʻi’s next generation is truly working hard to gain the knowledge necessary to be active global citizens,” she said. “I am excited for Kealakehe High School to represent Hawaiʻi on the national stage and for more students to attend next year’s WorldQuest Competition.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to correct the spelling of a competitor’s first name, and to clarify the name of a competition topic category.

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